You may not realize it, but certain symptoms in your feet and legs can warn you of a potential loss of life or limb. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the #1 killer of all Americans, the #1 killer of African-Americans, and the #1 killer of women. PAD (Peripheral Arterial Disease) is a condition where plaque builds up in the arteries causing blockage in blood flow. If PAD is left untreated, it can lead to amputations, heart attacks, and stroke.
Symptoms of PAD you should know about are:
1. Cramping in the Calves and Thighs While Walking. When working muscles in the leg do not get enough blood due to blockage in the arteries, a “cramping” pain occurs. The pain (known as “intermittent claudication”) typically goes away once you rest your legs from walking. If the pain no longer goes away after rest, then PAD is more serious.
2. Slow-healing Wounds on Toes or Feet. Wounds need a number of healing components from the blood. With poor blood flow, it can take longer for wounds to heal.
3. Hair-loss on the Feet or Toes. In order for hair to grow, it needs enough blood circulation in the skin. Little or no hair can be a sign of poor blood flow.
4. Cold Feet, Especially When Compared to the Other Foot. The foot that feels colder than the other can possibly lack enough blood flow to keep it warm. It may even look more pale.
5. Absent or Weak Foot Pulses. An artery on top of the foot (Dorsalis Pedis) and one at the ankle (Posterior Tibial) can show a weak or absent pulse if not enough blood flows through it.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is very important that you do not ignore it. Have your doctor check your circulation. One simple test is to check your ABI (Ankle Brachial Index) which compares the blood pressure in the feet to the blood pressure in the arm. A diagnosis of poor circulation can put your feet at risk if you have corns, calluses, and thickened or ingrowing toenails. Treating these problems yourself can lead to serious complications. Make sure you have a podiatrist as part of your health care team to provide the necessary foot care.
Your feet do more than take you where your heart desires. They can also tell you a lot about your heart health. Show your feet some love by paying attention to what they are saying about you.