February is Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of cardiovascular care and an opportunity to focus on what we can all do to improve the condition of our heart. It’s also important for people to understand the connection between heart and foot and ankle health.

Many foot problems can indicate heart problems and some heart problems can indicate foot problems. That is why our podiatrists often work closely with cardiologists to provide patients with a complete scope of care. There are several different symptoms that people can experience that would indicate there’s a heart problem present that appear on the feet and ankles first.

Swelling can be a sign of high blood pressure and heart disease. Varicose veins can also be a sign of decreased circulation in the foot and leg. Tired, heavy feeling in the legs and sometimes even restless leg can be indicators of varicose veins.

“A lack of peripheral pulses can sometimes indicate an occlusion further up in the leg. Sometimes severe swelling can cause wounds. This can also compromise wound healing. Swelling can cause pain and make people's feet very uncomfortable which means they need to see their cardiologist. We often work closely with cardiologist because we are early detectors of blockages in people's legs that can progressively worsen and cause other problems and concerns and with early treatment the outcome is generally better,” said Dr. Michael Lacey.

The foot and ankle are the farthest parts of the body away from the heart, so podiatrists usually see evidence of diminished blood flow or cardiovascular disease first. Certain conditions like diabetes have a direct impact on heart as well as foot health. Taking care of your feet, especially when you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, highlights the importance of evaluation especially for those at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. 

Dr. Peter Lovato described more symptoms to the feet and ankles that people should be aware of that could indicate a heart problem.

“Color changes in the feet and ankles or temperature changes can also indicate diminished blood flow to the extremities which can sometimes be a sign of cardiovascular disease. Serious conditions like toes turning black (also known as gangrene) can be a sign of an emergent need to be seen,” he said.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, we encourage you to make an appointment to see one of our podiatrists.