Peripheral Arterial Disease – The Foot and Heart Health Connection

February is American Heart Month and the perfect time to discuss a little-known fact: That your feet can give you an important clue as to your heart health!

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), commonly called poor circulation, is the restriction of blood flow in the leg arteries. Plaque caused by the accumulation of cholesterol and other materials on the artery walls can cause the arteries to narrow. This reduces the amount of oxygen-rich blood to the extremities, especially the feet and legs.

The presence of PAD in the legs and feet can indicate more widespread arterial disease elsewhere in the body. This can affect the heart, causing a heart attack, or the brain resulting in a stroke. Risk factors for PAD include being over age 50, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol and a family history of PAD or heart disease.

The Relationship Between Peripheral Arterial Disease and Foot Problems

In a patient with PAD, small foot problems such as blisters, sores or cuts can result in serious complications because a normal blood flow is necessary for healing.
Those with diabetes often have nerve damage called neuropathy that can cause foot numbness, preventing the sensation of pain. Foot deformities and problems like ingrown or thickened fungal nails become more serious with the presence of PAD. Foot ulcers may develop over foot deformities and never heal. The combination of PAD and diabetes often cause toe, foot or leg amputations.

Diagnosing and Treating PAD

In the early stages of PAD, there are often no symptoms. Later when the arteries may be significantly blocked, symptoms can include leg cramping while walking or lying down, leg weakness or numbness, cold feet or legs, sores on toes, feet or legs that don’t heal and changes in toenail thickness and color.If you observe any of these symptoms, please come in to see us right away. Without professional treatment, PAD can lead to limb-threatening and debilitating results.

Effective treatment for PAD involves:

  • Lifestyle changes such as getting regular exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet and quitting smoking
  • Medication to prevent blood clots, improve blood flow and control blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Surgery in some cases to improve blood flow through the arteries

Cornerstone Foot & Ankle is a full service foot and ankle specialty office with locations in SewellCherry HillMarltonMt. HollyWoodbury, and Glassboro; serving the South Jersey region. We offer a full suite of services including surgeryfracture carefungal nail carediabetic foot carepediatric podiatrycustom braces and orthotics, wound care, limb salvage, and treatments for arch pain, heel pain, and sports injuries; just to name a few. If it hurts below your knee, we can help you!  CALL NOW or request your appointment online TODAY!