The Achilles tendon is the longest and strongest tendon in the body. It connects the heel bone to the calf muscle. New research has identified that this tendon can be used as a predictor for the severity of coronary artery disease in patients with the condition. It can also help to predict their likelihood of suffering a heart attack.
The participants were recruited based on whether they had recently received a stent implanted to help open a blocked artery in the heart, indicating a diagnosis of coronary artery disease. There were a total of 241 participants included in the study. The researchers measured the thickness of the participants’ Achilles tendon and then compared it with their arterial blockages.
Among those with an Achilles tendon nine millimeters thick, around 80 percent had more than one arterial blockage, indicating an increased risk for a heart attack. This risk was lower in the participants with a thinner Achilles tendon, among whom only 58 percent had more than one arterial blockage.
Achilles Thickness Related to Deadlier Heart Diseases
The researchers also found that the participants with thicker Achilles tendons were also more likely to have left main coronary artery disease. This is the deadliest form of the condition, with the highest rate of heart attack. The researchers believe that, from these findings, by diagnosing Achilles thickening, medical practitioners may be able to identify patients who are at risk for developing heart disease.
Future studies will examine the use of the Achilles tendon as a potential indicator for heart disease or other cardiovascular problems in the hope of using it in this way in the future. The current study only examined the thickness of the tendon in relation to patients already diagnosed with coronary artery disease, which therefore limits the current findings to that condition in particular.
Currently, the researchers are unable to make any assumptions about other possible causes for Achilles thickening. The researchers behind this study do believe that Achilles tendon thickness could be used as a predictor for other heart conditions, also, but will need to perform further research to confirm this hypothesis.
Another recent study has found that Achilles thickness was an accurate way to measure risk for familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). FH is a genetic disorder that results in cholesterol levels that are dangerously high. In this case, the researchers based their study off of the findings of previous research, which have established cholesterol deposits on the Achilles tendon, known as xanthomas, as an indicator for coronary artery disease in patients with FH.
Cholesterol deposits in the Achilles tendon and thickening of the tendon have been on the radar of cardiac researchers for some time. The researchers presume that if deposits and thickening are happening in the Achilles, they are likely also happening elsewhere in the body. With these new findings, scientists are one step closer to establishing Achilles thickness as a verifiable predictor for arterial blockages and increased risk of heart disease.