You might wonder what the link could be between Podiatry and stroke risk?!

Well, when visiting York Podiatry as a new patient, one of the initial tests that our Podiatrists will carry out (and at regular intervals thereafter) is a vascular assessment of the feet using a Doppler. A Doppler is an ultrasound device, that can hear the arterial supply of blood to your feet and enables the clinician to listen to the strength, quality and most importantly for stroke risk, regularity of your pulses.

A small amount of ultrasound gel is applied to the pulse points on the foot, to enable soundwaves from the Doppler to detect the blood supply. If an irregular heartbeat is detected, our podiatrists can then carry out a Kardia trace. 

A Kardia is a small EKG device (Echo Kardia Gram), fingers are placed on the sensors for 30 seconds, which gives a reading onto a computerised device within seconds, of the rhythm of the arterial supply. The podiatrist can make an onward referral to the GP, if there is an irregularity noted. The patient may be referred on for further investigations, such as an ECG (Echo Cardio Gram) within a hospital.

An irregular heartbeat, which can easily go unnoticed, may not be a cause for concern but it could be a sign of atrial fibrillation, potentially leading to serious health conditions. Stroke Prevention Day in the UK is being held on the 25th January this year, run by the Stroke Association, to try and make people more aware of Atrial Fibrillation.

The Stroke Association states ‘Atrial fibrillation is when your heart beats with an irregular rhythm. When this happens, your heart won’t empty all of the blood out of its chambers with every beat. Then, if your heart chambers aren’t empty, the leftover blood can form clots which travel from your heart into the brain, blocking off blood flow and causing a stroke. Because atrial fibrillation is a cause of 1 in 5 strokes, it’s really important that you spread the message and encourage your family and friends to test for atrial fibrillation too’. Stroke Prevention Day | Stroke Association

Atrial fibrillation, like strokes, can happen at any stage of life but more commonly with age.  Strokes in some can be a short-lived occurrence with no lasting side effects, others can be very severe resulting in permanent life changing damage or even death.

A stroke happens in the brain, when the blood supply is either restricted or cut off, resulting in brain cells dying. This leads to brain injury, affecting the rest of bodily functions, both emotionally and physically.

Lifestyle factors and conditions that can increase the risk of having a stroke:

  • being overweight
  • smoking
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • lack of exercise
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • migraines
  • high cholesterol
  • irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation)
  • pregnancy
  • the combined contraceptive pill
  • sickle cell disease
  • family history of stroke
  • your ethnicity

So in essence, attending a podiatry assessment could potentially be live saving! Check out the reviews on our website, to read about a patient who was extremely grateful that he had had a Doppler assessment at our podiatry clinic. This resulted in the findings of an irregular heartbeat, he later learnt, following onward referral, he had atrial fibrillation that required hospital treatment.