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Swollen Ankles & Your Heart

ankles and sneakers

Have you noticed your feet, ankles, and legs are swollen? Do you feel pain or numbness in legs or feet when you try to stand up after sitting for a period of time?
While swelling in the feet can occur due to a number of reasons, it does not always mean that a person has a serious medical condition.  However, it can be an important early warning sign of heart disease or other health issues, particularly if it persists, recurs, or occurs alongside other symptoms.

Why Do I Have Swelling?

Swelling can happen for a number of reasons. If you have ever flown on an airplane for a longer flight, you may have noticed that your ankles were swollen when it came time to disembark.  Some people notice ankle swelling or “sock-line” at the end of the day.

This swelling is caused mostly by gravity and the air pressure around you. As you sit in a tight space for a long period of time, swelling can occur in your feet and ankles as the gravity pulls and retains fluid from blood vessels.

However, in your everyday life, you should not experience swelling on a regular basis. By walking, standing, and moving regularly, your legs should continue to pump the fluid back up thus feet and ankles should not feel swollen. If they do, you should consider talking to your doctor.

Health Conditions Can Lead to Swollen Ankles

Some health conditions that may cause swelling are benign like venous insufficieny, over-weight/obesity, age related changes in the veins, genetics and history of multiple pregnancies.  

More serious heart conditions may include high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, weak heart muscle called cardiomyopathy, heart rhythm issues or many a valvular heart problems , which can then cause swelling.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most prevalent health conditions facing Americans, especially our senior citizens. In fact, 68 million Americans – 1 in every 3 U.S. adults – have high blood pressure, and nearly 20 percent do not know they have it.

High blood pressure can either be a cause of heart disease, causing excessive wear and tear on the heart muscle, or it can be a symptom of a heart condition.

 All these conditions need a thorough assessment by a cardiologist. You may need to have certain diagnostic tests (stress test, echocardiogram, vascular ultrasound and venous reflux studies) to determine the cause.

Some conservative measures that can be easily done are compression stocking when upright or active (4-6 hours during the day only), leg exercises, salt restriction, and weight loss when needed.


Beebe Interventional Cardiologists Perform Life-Improving Procedures

Structrual heart disease in a new and up-and-coming field of cardiology where certain procedures on the heart, that required open heart surgery before, can now be performed via minimally invasive femoral artery access in an interventional cardiology lab. Beebe has a talented and enthusiastic group of very well-trained interventional cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons that are performing some of these procedures with great success.

If your quality of life has changed due to high blood pressure, swelling, or inflammation possibly caused by a heart condition, Beebe's structural heart team may be able to help.

Talk to your cardiologist about your heart condition and if a procedure may improve your quality of life.

Beebe offers advanced procedures for heart conditions:

  • Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). Learn more.
  • Sentinel: A device that removes debris from your blood during an interventional cardiology procedure in order to prevent stroke. Learn more.
  • WATCHMAN Closure Device: Prevents blood clots and strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation thus removing the need for blood thinners. Learn more.
  • Lead-less Pacemaker: Inserted via femoral vein access, this pacemaker requires no cut down or wires. Ideal for high-risk patients. Learn more.
  • Intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) that increases coronary perfusion and improves patient outcomes in high-risk cases. Learn more.
  • First hospital on Delmarva to install Impella - world's smallest heart pump - for high-risk patients during high-risk procedures or in shock conditions. Learn more.
  • Laser and Diamondback Atherectomy: Removes heavily calcified or scarred blockages from the heart arteries. Learn more.

If you experience ongoing fatigue, shortness of breath, or trouble walking distances that you used to be able to accomplish - you could have aortic stenosis. Learn more.

If you have issues with blood flow through your ventricles, aorta, or mitral valve, Beebe can help. Learn more about Cardiovascular Services.

Contact Beebe's Heart Health Nurse Navigator today.

Article published July 2021.