Heart and Sole – The Link Between Foot and Circulatory Health
So how does heart health relate to foot health, and vice versa?
I could not think of a better example than the song that Heart and Soul…or Sole. Anybody that has touched the keys of a piano should recognize this. My second favorite version was played in the scene from the movie Big. (If you are one of the 3 people on earth that haven’t seen it, give it a shot. It’s one of Tom Hanks’s early classics. The same cannot be said for Joe Versus the Volcano.)
Just try to get that song out of your head the rest of your day.
I think this video is a great example of having fun (not limited to kids) and being active at the same time. Both the young Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia were gasping for oxygen in rehearsals. They could not have done this scene if they did not have adequate blood flow to their legs.
Now, we don’t actually test our patients with a giant keyboard. How fun would it be to have one of these in our reception area? We are serious about performing circulatory testing and monitoring at our office. We have invested in technology for measuring arterial blood flow to the feet and lower limbs.
The testing is very similar to what you would receive in a cardiologist or vascular specialist office. We have added Bluetooth technology to eliminate the wires/tubes so it is easy and quick.
Foot health and heart health are closely intertwined. We want to help ensure we identify any potential problems you or a loved one may have as soon as possible.
How Your Feet are Affected by Your Heart
The feet, of course, are the farthest stop on the long journey of your circulatory system. This network of blood vessels travels throughout the body. What happens to vessels in one area can happen to vessels in another area.
You may be familiar with the term CAD (Coronary Artery Disease). Well, PAD is Periphery Artery Disease and is same the same problem that occurs in the leg.
Looking at and testing vascular supply can vary depending on the location in the body. In the eyes, for example, it can be rather easy to visualize the blood vessels. The capillaries, the smallest blood vessels, can be seen at the back of the eye (retina) during a standard exam.
It’s not as easy to see what is going on with the blood vessels in the feet and heart. That’s why we rely tools such as ABI testing, which compares blood vessel performance in the arms and legs. You can learn more about our Smart ABI test in the video below.
Remember that your circulatory system is how the body receives oxygen. This is pretty important to survive and function properly. The amount of blood that can be delivered by the arteries and the amount of oxygen in the blood determine the quality of your vascular supply.
Blood flow has a bit more of a challenge reaching (and returning from) the feet and lower legs than other areas of the body. We are concerned about how far the blood has to travel and how strong the pump is. How open and flexible the vessels are also become big factors!
So when any of these problems reduces vascular supply, the lower limbs may suffer consequences. And those consequences can be very serious.
If we see problems in the lower legs there may be problems with circulatory system in the heart as well. That’s when we may recommend bringing our friend the cardiologist into the mix.
Symptoms of Circulatory Problems in the Legs and Feet
An early symptom of reduced vascular supply can be early muscle fatigue. A short walk around the block may feel like you ran a marathon.
An advanced sign of diminished blood flow is called Intermittent Claudication. This is a major red flag, like having left arm pain forecasting a heart attack.
Claudication produces deep muscle cramping during activities. The symptoms get better with rest but will return after the same amount of activity. On the other hand, symptoms may never show up if there is insufficient activity. This is different from the typical nighttime cramping which is from an entirely different problem.
When blood flow reduces enough, there may be just enough oxygen to keep your body running. Any extra demand can make the muscles cry out. You can think of it like trying to run around the block while breathing through a straw. It puts a lot of stress on the system!
But being on the move isn’t the only thing that can tax your vascular supply. Your cells can also put in “special orders” for more oxygen when they need repairs from an injury. This can be anything ranging from a cut to a blister to an ingrown toenail.
When there is reduced vascular supply in these cases, it can lead to a delay in healing time. In more severe cases, healing may not occur at all.
Injuries and ulcers that don’t heal properly are more open to infection. It is just a matter of time before an open wound gets infected. A soft tissue infection is bad, but if an infection reaches the bone, surgery and even amputation may be the only recourse.
Such wounds are a common problem with many diabetic patients . These patients often face other complications in addition to vascular supply.
The Consequences of Amputation
We understand that nobody wants to think about losing a limb—and that is the problem. People are not aware of the risks.
We are certainly not trying to scare you, but IT IS scary. Even scarier is that a large group of people may not know they have PAD, or for that matter CAD. That is why testing is so important, and why non-invasive ABI testing is so helpful.
Unfortunately, an amputation often does not mark the end of a problem. When a body part is lost in the lower extremity, more work is placed on the other areas. It’s like having five people holding up a telephone pole, and then one person steps away. The demand on the remaining leg increases. If there was not enough blood supply to heal in the first place, then it is not likely to do well when there is more demand.
If you lose a leg to amputation, it increases the odds of the other side being lost within the next 5 years.
It’s important to understand that amputation can be avoided, and we’ll always do everything within our power to keep your infection from reaching the “point of no return” where amputation is the only remaining option. The odds are so much better with early identification and prevention of PAD.
Proactive Action for Foot and Heart Health
The sooner you identify a problem affecting blood flow to the feet, the sooner it can be addressed. That is why we perform Smart ABI testing here at the office. If we do find a problem, we are more than happy to connect you with an endovascular specialist.
A treatment plan might consist of a number of treatments and long-term changes. We might also recommend reasonable exercise plans to increase cardiovascular health. In some cases, a procedure to open up blood vessels may be on the table.
If you smoke, please quit. It will destroy your circulation. It may come to a choice between nicotine and body parts. Only one can be chosen. You cannot have both…for very long.
If you or a loved one has any symptoms that might suggest a circulation-related foot or lower leg problem, do not hesitate to contact us about it. Call our Indianapolis office at (317) 545-0505 or fill out our online contact form.
On that happy note -If you made it to the end, you deserve a bit of a treat. Here are some more versions of “Heart and Soul” we found while watching the Big clip: