Feet are essentially the furthest part of the body from the brain. Linking the condition of one to the health of the other may seem counterintuitive. However, each person’s body is an interconnected network of nerves, bones, soft tissues and arteries, so symptoms of seemingly disparate conditions can manifest in places you might not expect.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) isn’t a condition that only affects the feet, but one of its hallmark symptoms is reduced blood flow to the feet, leading to foot pain and limited mobility. Studies have found that older people with symptomatic PAD experience cognitive decline and dementia at a higher rate than those without PAD.
A recent GeroScience study of older adults that was adjusted for comorbidities, cardiovascular risk factors and demographic characteristics found that the participants who were diagnosed with PAD had lower neuropsychological scores on all of their testing parameters.
Correlation is not causation, but medical experts have surmised that accelerated vascular aging that manifests in part as symptomatic PAD does impact brain health. Essentially, it’s not foot health that’s causing the onset of dementia but likely vascular health in general, and those issues can manifest as symptomatic PAD.
Will Caring for My Feet Help Reduce My Dementia Risk?
PAD is generally attributed to arterial blockages due to plaque buildup. Simply caring for your feet will not prevent plaque buildup, but things like exercise and a good diet can help slow it.
People, especially as they age, often find it difficult to exercise if they’re experiencing limited mobility due to foot injuries, which is one way in which good foot health can help patients ward off more serious long-term conditions like PAD.
It can be difficult or painful to exercise when you are constantly experiencing pain and numbness in your feet, and it may discourage you from doing other healthy activities like cooking nutritious meals or going to the grocery store or farmer’s market for produce instead of ordering in or going to a fast-food drive through.
Good foot health is just one of many things that can be good for overall health, which is why you should strongly consider seeking podiatric or orthopedic care if foot pain is preventing you from staying healthy and active.
How Can You Manage PAD Pain?
PAD pain can be especially acute when sufferers walk or exercise, making it one of those unfortunate conditions that can have exponentially negative effects on sufferers.
There are a variety of habits, activities and products people suffering PAD pain can use to manage their symptoms. These include:
- Exercise: Regular exercise, such as walking, cycling or swimming, can improve circulation and reduce symptoms of PAD.
- Medications: Pain relief medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can help manage PAD pain. In severe cases, a doctor may prescribe stronger medications or nitrates to dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow.
- Lifestyle changes: Quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight can improve PAD foot pain and reduce the risk of complications.
- Compression stockings: Wearing compression stockings can help improve circulation in the legs and reduce symptoms of PAD.
If you suspect you are suffering from PAD, it is extremely important to schedule an appointment with your doctor or an appropriate specialist. A podiatrist may be able to help you manage foot-specific symptoms of PAD, but you’ll need to work with other types of specialists to manage the condition as a whole and develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
There is no magic bullet for dementia, and simply exercising good foot care is not a reliable replacement for other lifestyle changes or treatments. Be sure to speak openly with your primary care physician about your symptoms and concerns.
If foot pain is preventing you from participating fully in life, the team at Centennial Orthopedic Podiatry in Roseburg is here for you. Call our office at 541.229.2663 for an appointment.