Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in America, responsible for one out of every three deaths that occur. There is no one thing you can do to prevent heart disease, but cardiologists advise a variety of lifestyle habits such as regular exercise and a nutritious diet. There are foods you can eat in order to help your heart out and habits to avoid that could hurt it.
Even if you do everything in your power to prevent heart problems, they could still happen. Everyone is at risk — though some more than others — so knowing the signs and symptoms of your heart being in trouble is crucial.
Not everyone with heart problems will experience the same symptoms. In fact, something doctors wish more people knew is that women and men sometimes experience different symptoms entirely. While most people know that heart palpitations, chest pain, and high blood pressure are dangerous signs, there are other more subtle symptoms that could signal a risk.
Certain changes in your skin can indicate underlying issues. If your toes, fingers or extremities turn a purplish blue, it could be a sign that you have a blocked blood vessel. The disrupted circulation causes a blockage of oxygenated blood, changing the color of the skin. This is sometimes called “blue toe syndrome.” If left untreated, it could result in the death of a toe or other affected area.
Violent coughing can mean more than just a nasty cold — if you experience coughing fits that don’t disappear within a few weeks, you should consult your doctor. Congestive heart failure can cause fluid buildup in the lungs, causing wheezing and coughing that won’t go away.
If you bruise your nail or otherwise hurt your finger, it’s normal to see some blood or bruising. However, if these specks of blood are unexplained or don’t go away, they could be cause for concern. These dots are a symptom of endocarditis, an infection of the lining of your heart or heart valves.
According to the World Health Organization, over 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. There are ways to stave off depression, or at least help manage it, but no real cure has been determined. That said, being depressed doesn’t doom you to heart disease. But possibly due to correlations involving other lifestyle factors common in people with depression, depression and heart conditions have been linked.
Arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm, can cause an odd and irregular flow of blood to the brain. Just like if you’d stood up too fast, this rush of blood to the head can cause disorienting dizziness that could even cause you to faint.
There are a number of health conditions that could cause erectile dysfunction. But since blood flow is crucial for things to work properly, an ineffective heart muscle could be the cause. In fact, erectile dysfunction is often the first noticeable sign of a heart problem, preceding the onset of other symptoms by approximately two years.
In the days leading up to a heart attack, patients often feel exhausted and weak, despite having had enough rest. The feeling is much different than the slight fatigue you might feel at the end of a long workday or how you feel after not getting enough sleep — it’s chronic and it’s severe.
An irregular heartbeat is normal every once in a while — if you’re really excited, for instance, or you’re frightened, or you just sprinted a mile. And even if your irregular heartbeat does happen more often, oftentimes you and your doctor can solve the issue with a lifestyle change, which can be as simple as making sure you get enough sleep. However, if left unaddressed, an irregular heartbeat can escalate into something more serious. It may also be something called atrial fibrillation, which requires treatment.
Persistent nausea or a lack of appetite is a telltale sign that something’s wrong. One of these underlying health problems could be a heart condition. If the aversion to food persists, ask your doctor to evaluate what’s going on. The sooner you catch the condition, the better chance you have of avoiding a heart attack.
Hair needs a consistent source of nutrients from your food, which are then distributed through your blood, in order to grow. Without those nutrients, the body simply stops growing hair. Your leg hair is likely to go first, since it’s furthest from the heart. But your head could be next.
Getting one too many charley horses? Don’t just attribute it to old age or weakness — excessive cramping could be a sign that something is really wrong. You could just be dehydrated. But muscle cramping has been shown to be a significant sign of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a buildup of plaque in the legs’ arteries. PAD is treatable, so catching the symptoms early is important for your lasting health.
You might think that chest pain would be the first sign of heart problems, but that’s not always true. Unexplained pain in the neck or jaw is a potential sign of angina, a heart problem that occurs when the organ lacks oxygen-rich blood. Women are more likely to exhibit these symptoms than men; but if you experience constricting pain on more than one occasion, it’s time to consult your doctor.
If your extremities sometimes lose feeling or feel abnormally cold to the touch, it could be a sign of poor circulation. Poor circulation is often a precursor to more serious issues such as clogged arteries or a stroke.
Ever get winded after walking up a few flights of stairs? If so, don’t panic — that’s totally normal. But if you’re gasping for air after standing up too fast, walking a few blocks, or doing other forms of activity that aren’t usually so exhausting, you might want to check with your doctor. Your body’s ability to exercise without getting winded relies on your heart’s ability to pump blood. Sudden shortness of breath could be a sign that something’s wrong.
A yellow-red, bumpy rash on the skin could be a serious indicator. These bumps can occur on your fingers, toes and rear end due to extremely high triglyceride (a type of fat) levels in the blood. If too many of these fats exist in your blood, you are at risk for clogged arteries and heart disease.
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes patients to wake up in the middle of the night, gasping for air. These breathing irregularities have been linked to a higher risk of heart attacks and heart arrhythmia. When people with sleep apnea experience an interruption in natural breathing, their bodies detect a lack of oxygen and force blood vessels to quickly tighten, causing a knee-jerk gasp for air. The stress on blood vessels could cause problems over time.
We’re not talking about a slight swelling you experience if it’s hot outside or you got hurt. The kind of swelling that signals heart failure is extreme and often results in visible lines from where shoes and socks have dug into the skin. The swelling is caused by a buildup of blood in your veins when they aren’t flowing properly.
Gum health and heart health are more correlated than you might think. Periodontal disease is often a sign of underlying heart problems. Though experts still aren’t sure of the exact connection, both are somehow linked to inflammation.
If you suddenly sprint to catch a bus or are in a humid room, sweating is nothing to sweat over. Anxiety can cause sweating, as well. But unexplained bouts of extreme perspiration are a really bad sign. Say you’re sitting in a chair and suddenly start sweating profusely — it could be an early sign of an incoming heart attack. Call 911 or head to your nearest hospital right away. To try to prevent these symptoms from happening, use these cardiologists’ tips for taking care of your heart.
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