February is American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month. Heart disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. The good news? Heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions. Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to create opportunities for people to make healthier choices.
Throughout the month, we’re partnering with the American Heart Association to raise awareness about heart disease and how people can help prevent it — both at home and in the community. We’ll be posting tips, statistics, advice, information and resources throughout the month on this blog, our facebook page, twitter account, and website.
Heart Health and Your Feet
We all hear about the positive effects of exercise on our hearts. It has been proven again and again that exercise reduces risk factors associated with disease. But what is less clear is the linkage between heart health and your feet. Heart disease, diabetes, and even cold temperatures have an impact on your feet. I’ll just attempt to summarize a few of them and point you to some great resources for additional information.
While we’ve been pretty fortunate so far this winter, we still have a ways to go – the whole month of February and most of March which can itself be fickle weather-wise.
Cooler temperatures affect your heart, especially if you have cardiovascular disease. If you’re not conditioned to being outside in the cold you should avoid sudden exertion as it can strain your heart. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or shoveling snow can put a strain on your heart and possibly result in hypothermia.
Hypothermia is, simply defined as your body not producing enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough (above 95oF).
So, what’s that got to do with your feet? Dampness causes the body to lose heat fast. If you’re wearing cotton socks which hold the sweaty moisture from your feet, you are at risk of losing warmth. Of course, you also lose heat through your head and hands. Layer your clothing for best results and avoid cotton socks.
Tingling Foot Pain:
From Dr. Oz: You’re probably familiar with the fiery sensation that develops after a long day in four-inch heels. But if the pain is accompanied by a pins-and-needles feeling, you could have nerve damage in your feet. One surprising culprit: diabetes. A blood sugar test can diagnose diabetes. Diet and exercise, blood sugar monitoring, and medication can prevent further damage.
Blood pressure is the force applied against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body. The pressure is determined by the force and amount of blood pumped and the size and flexibility of the arteries. High blood pressure can cause fluid buildup and swollen feet. The effects of high blood pressure on the nervous and circulatory systems can cause pain, loss of sensation, and tingling in the feet, and can increase the susceptibility for infection and foot ulcers.
About 8 million Americans have peripheral arterial disease (PAD), according to the American Heart Association. In PAD, a fatty substance called plaque that builds up in the arteries in your legs, reducing the flow of blood to your lower legs and feet.
PAD can cause the muscles in your calves and other parts of your legs to cramp while you’re moving around. The condition can also lead to foot pain and poorly healed foot wounds. While the foot and leg-related symptoms of PAD are usually quite obvious, the disease is also associated with hidden damage to the heart and brain — which places those with PAD at much higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
It’s a lot of work to move all that blood. To do their job, veins are full of valves that help keep the blood flowing in the right direction. Valves are like tiny doors that close after the blood has passed through to keep blood moving along and to make sure it doesn’t flow backward.
As people get older, though, the valves might not work as well. When that happens, some blood can stay in a vein instead of moving forward like it should. This makes the vein swell up, and that swollen vein is a varicose vein.
The veins often show up on the legs, ankles, and feet because those body parts are farthest from the heart. Gravity pulls blood down into your legs and feet when you’re standing up or sitting down. So the veins have to work extra hard to get that blood back up to the heart, and some of those veins can wear out over time.
Varicose veins in the feet are usually not a source of medical concern, being in most cosmetic, but they can also be the source of superficial bleeding and marks on the skin. The major complication is bleeding, as varicose veins of the feetare located where the pressure is greatest. Although rare, a “venous rupture” of a varicose vein in the foot can lead to massive hemorrhaging that can not only involve serious quantities of blood but also appear upsetting. The hemorrhage can easily be temporarily stopped by performing a simple movement: the victim should lie on the floor and raise the leg at a right angle. The blood in the vein empties into the other veins in the leg and the hemorrhage stops. This is a “genuine medical emergency”, where surgery on foot varicose veins must be performed without delay.
Claw toe, and a similar condition called “hammertoe,” are caused by an imbalance of muscles in the feet and toes. In the case of brain injury or stroke, the result is neuromuscular imbalances. With claw toe, muscles in the foot over-contract due to a neurological abnormality.
Claw toe and hammertoe are very similar conditions, differing in the muscles affected — flexor digitorum brevis and flexor digitorum longus, respectively. For this reason, the terms “claw toe” and “hammertoe” are often used interchangeably.
- Free heart health programs in February focus on blood clots, varicose veins, exercise (mlive.com)
- Health Buzz: Wear Red and Learn ABC’s for Heart Month (US News)
- Cold Weather and Cardiovascular Disease
- Keep Your Heart Healthy http://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/healthconditions-and-diseases/heart-health/keep-your-heart-healthy
- Conversation starters http://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditions-anddiseases/heart-health/heart-health-conversation-starters
- Heart Healthy Foods: Shopping list http://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditions-anddiseases/heart-health/heart-healthy-foods-shopping-list
- Reduce Your Risk of Stroke http://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditions-anddiseases/heart-health/reduce-your-risk-of-stroke
- Manage Stress (http://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditionsand-diseases/heart-health/manage-stress
- Interactive Heart Attack Tutorial http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/heartattack/htm/index.htm)
- My Blood Pressure Wallet Card [PDF – 664KB] http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/hbpwallet.pdf