The feet can say a lot more about our health than perhaps we give them credit for. When it comes to cardiovascular health, they often remain forgotten, but are key in telling their own unique story of the circulatory system. From aches and pains, to swelling and ulcers, signs of poor circulation in the feet are key indicators that a patient’s heart could be suffering as well.1
With increasing concern over earlier diagnosis of cardiovascular illness, as well as wide spread issues with under-diagnosis of related diseases, it’s easy to see the value of quick and simple tests in primary care.2 Luckily, the lower limbs are ideal candidates for speedy evaluation, due to their susceptibility to circulatory problems during cardiovascular stress, and distinctive symptoms for easy identification.3 Greater awareness of what to look out for, especially within primary care, could lead to speedier referral for patients at risk, and ultimately not only save limbs, but lives.
Perhaps the most common cardiovascular disease linked to foot health is peripheral arterial disease (PAD), identified by the accumulation of fatty plaques in the arteries of legs and feet.1 With reduced blood supply to the muscles, the symptoms for PAD are typically quite obvious – tell-tale signs including pain, numbing, weakness and discolouration in the lower limbs, as well as hair loss on the feet indicating poor quality circulation.
Importantly, PAD is closely associated with more extensive damage to the heart and brain — which places those with PAD at much higher risk of more serious coronary heart disease (CHD), critical limb ischemia (CLI) and stroke.1 As PAD can be quickly identified through simple pulse and blood pressure tests, there is an opportunity to refer at risk patients to specialist services before symptoms become more serious.
Heart infections are also easily identifiable through the feet, through tell-tale signs in the nails.4 Red streaks underneath the toenails or fingernails could indicate splinter haemorrhages, as a result of small blood clots in the capillaries. Such bleeds are closely associated with endocarditis, which can result in heart failure if untreated. A simple check of patients’ nails during regular check-ups could make all the difference.
As a medical communications agency, we believe that fresh perspectives in healthcare can make all the difference when it comes to engaging with your audience. By exploring every aspect of a disease journey, we can find new sources of inspiration, and ultimately drive more proactive behaviours within health.