Everyone is well aware of primary heart location in the chest and how it pumps blood throughout the entire body. The heart is an amazing organ and the main part of the circulatory system. It pumps all the blood around the body and enables it to provide oxygen in the lungs so that we can continue breathing and moving. Oxygen-rich blood is pumped around our bodies through miles of arteries even down to the toes. One heart pump has enough power to send blood to every part of the body, reaching your lower legs in seconds.
But did you know that the body has a “second heart” that also pumps blood? It’s your calf muscles and foot. It helps deoxygenated blood to get back to the lungs again, often against gravity. This is done through the veins. Veins have special valves in them to prevent the blood from flowing the wrong way. When the muscles contract, they squeeze the veins, aiding the flow of blood.
The health of your feet can be directly related to the health of your heart. Because the feet mirror general health, foot problems can be the first sign of more serious medical problems such as heart disease, peripheral artery disease, diabetes and neuropathy.
What your calf muscles do
Your calf muscle, which is located at the back of your lower leg, pumps blood out of your leg and back to your heart, eliminating toxins through the lungs, kidneys, and liver along the way.
However, since the blood is flowing against gravity, sending it toward the heart will take more than a single pump from the heart. For this reason, the body uses the calf muscles to pump blood from your lower legs back to the heart.
The best way to improve circulation is to get moving. Every time the calf muscles contract, it helps blood to flow against gravity. If you don’t move for long periods, blood and toxins will collect in your lower legs and cause swelling.
How the calf pump works
Many specialists refer to the calf muscle as “the secondary heart” because it plays a crucial role in the body’s circulatory system. When you walk, you contract (pump) the calf muscle, which squeezes the veins, helping to push the blood back to the heart. The foot pump is a mechanism of venous return which works when we walk or run.
Regular weight-bearing exercise keeps the calf muscle and foot pump active because the leg muscles squeeze the vein, walks and helps push the blood back to the lungs.
If you have any of the symptoms below, talk to your doctor right away:
• Swelling in your feet and lower legs is a sign of heart problems. When your heart doesn’t pump enough blood, fluid can build up in your feet and legs causing swelling.
• Pain, achiness, fatigue, burning or discomfort in the muscles of your feet, calves, or thighs. Symptoms that often appear during walking or exercise and go away after several minutes of rest.
• Numbness in your legs or feet when you are at rest. Your legs may also feel cool to the touch, and the skin may look pale.
How to keep your feet and your heart healthy:
• Exercising regularly for at least 30 minutes a day. Walking for exercise is the number one way to keep your heart and your feet healthy.
• Eating a nutritious diet that includes lots of whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruit.
• Getting regular screening exams from your medical doctor and podiatrist. Knowing your numbers such as blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol numbers etc., can help you stay healthy. A podiatrist can help detect more serious medical problems such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes in the feet.
Wearing compression stockings can also help to support the vein walls, reducing discomfort, swelling, aching and tightness when worn regularly.
It is best not to stand in one place for a long period of time. Walking on tip toes, or performing squats can also help the blood to flow in the calf.
Insoles will help keep you moving and support the feet and legs as you walk and exercise.
It is important to improve the way you use your leg muscles to help reduce edema and aching in the legs and keep your body moving, your blood flowing and your “two hearts” pumping.
• For more information on foot conditions, visit www.apma.org, healthcentral.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see a podiatrist, visit Bahamas Foot Centre, Rosetta Street, or telephone 325-2996 for an appointment at Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre, Hilltop Medical, or call 394-5820 for an appointment. You can also visit Lucayan Medical Centre in Freeport, Grand Bahama, or telephone 373-7400 for an appointment.