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September 09, 2019

How your feet could be signaling heart problems

Swollen feet or ankles can be a sign of an artery problem or heart failure

Prevention Heart Disease
Woman Feet 09092019 Image by tookapic/from Pixabay


What could your feet have to do with your arteries and your heart?

A lot, surprisingly.

Sluggish pulse rates in your feet may actually indicate a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, including peripheral artery disease (PAD) and coronary artery disease (CAD), types of atherosclerosis disease from the "buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on your artery walls (plaque) which can restrict blood flow.”

PAD occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries leading to your extremities while CAD is a blockage in the blood vessels leading to the heart. Both diseases are often present together so if you have PAD, you are probably at greater risk for heart disease as well. According to the Cleveland Clinic, PAD “can cause discomfort in your legs and feet, and limit your walking and activities. Severe PAD can progress to loss of limb.”


Your physician can screen for PAD by checking the pulse in your feet to see if your blood flow is normal. They can also perform an ankle brachial index that uses ultrasound technology to listen to your pulse.

If you have trouble being on your feet for long periods of times and experience a lot of cramping in your legs, you should probably be screened, especially if you have a family history of PAD and heart disease. Swollen feet or ankles can also be a sign of an artery problem or heart failure, although it can also indicate kidney or liver failure, too.


To better protect your arteries from diseases like PAD and CAD, a healthy lifestyle is a must. This means regular exercise and a balanced diet low in saturated and trans fat to maintain more desirable blood cholesterol levels. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.

Keep in mind also that proper management of other health conditions like diabetes can also decrease your risk for PAD.

For more information about PAD, visit,

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