This foot test can show heart rhythm disorder in people with diabetes

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In a recent study presented at EHRA 2021, researchers found that atrial fibrillation can be detected during annual foot assessments in patients with diabetes.

The study is from the European University of Cyprus. One author is Dr. Ilias Kanellos.

Diabetes is an independent risk factor for atrial fibrillation. Prevalence of the heart rhythm disorder is at least two-fold higher in patients with diabetes compared to those without.

Although people with atrial fibrillation have a five times greater risk of stroke, anticoagulation medication is an effective preventive therapy.

Annual foot checks are advised for patients with diabetes. This is because increased blood sugars cause poor circulation, nerve damage and numbness, and could ultimately lead to foot amputation if problems go undetected.

The team says the yearly check-up includes palpating the arteries in the feet to examine whether there is healthy blood flow.

During this examination, we noticed that some patients had an irregular rhythm and decided to investigate its usefulness for diagnosing atrial fibrillation.

In the study, the team tested 300 patients with diabetes who attend their annual foot screening appointments.

Patients with rhythm abnormalities during pulse palpation of their foot arteries underwent a Doppler ultrasound to verify the observations.

The researchers found that 51 patients (17%) had previously undiagnosed atrial fibrillation. The heart rhythm disorder was found in a similar proportion of men and women.

Patients were advised to visit a cardiologist for an electrocardiogram (ECG) to reinforce the diagnosis and discuss treatment.

Two podiatrists and six podologists were trained to spot rhythm abnormalities during pulse palpation of the foot arteries. They were also shown how to confirm their findings using a hand-held Doppler ultrasound device.

The researchers say they identified a simple, quick, and low-cost way to identify patients with diabetes who have a heart rhythm disorder they were unaware of.

This intervention has the potential to avoid strokes and preserve the quality of life in this patient group.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about a surprising cause of abnormal heart rhythm and findings of this common nutrient may benefit people with heart failure.

For more information about heart disease prevention and treatment, please see recent studies about this hormone may reduce irregular heartbeat, inflammation and results showing that statins may do double duty on heart disease and cancer.

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