6 Subtle But Serious Signs You Have A Heart Problem
Problems with the cardiovascular system can show up in many different ways. (Photo: Getty Images)
One person in the US dies of cardiovascular disease every 36 seconds, making it one of the leading causes of death for Americans. In addition, approximately 655,000 Americans die from heart complications each year - which results in one in four deaths.
While these statistics are alarming, it is more alarming that many people are completely unaware of the small, insidious signs that could indicate cardiovascular problems.
"Many people view chest pain as a warning sign of cardiovascular disease," said Mariko Harper, a Seattle doctor who specializes in cardiovascular disease, nuclear cardiology, and echocardiography. But he added, "While more than half of people who have a heart attack have chest discomfort, up to a third of people - especially women - have no chest symptoms at all. They can have more atypical or subtle symptoms."
Ignoring these signs means that you are ignoring all of your well-being.
If the body were thought of as a machine, the heart would be the battery that powered it, said Aeshita Dwivedi, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. "Essentially, the rest of the body can't function optimally without a properly functioning heart," she said.
Here are some subtle but serious signs that you may be dealing with a cardiovascular problem, as well as some advice on how to better improve your heart health:
Swelling in the lower extremities
Christine Bishara, founder of New York's integrative medical practice From Within Medical, said swelling in the lower legs, especially the ankles and feet, could mean heart disease. This problem is also known as edema.
"When your heart loses its ability to pump blood to the rest of your body - either from weakened heart muscles or from damage to the heart tissue from a silent heart attack - the flow of blood can slow and become trapped in your legs, causing swelling." She said.
shortness of breath
As mentioned earlier, some people don't experience chest pain with heart problems. While this can happen to anyone, Bishara said this is especially true for people with diabetes. Instead, you may experience difficulty breathing.
"Because diabetes affects and weakens nerve sensations, [diabetics] with severe heart disease can never experience symptoms of chest pain," she said. "Therefore shortness of breath should never be ignored - especially when it comes to a fresh start."
Feeling tired that you just don't seem to be shaking could be another subtle sign of heart problems, according to Bishara. Especially when it seems to have come out of nowhere.
"If symptoms of fatigue are acute or if there is no identifiable cause, see your doctor," she said.
Unexplained pain in the upper back, left shoulder, or arm
Bishara said this pain should not be ignored as it can also be a sign of heart block or an impending heart attack. Back symptoms are common in women and can sometimes be the only symptom. “This is especially true if the pain is accidental (e.g. you did not strain anything during exercise).
Palpitations that come out of nowhere
The timing of such palpitations is just as important as the symptom itself. Keep in mind that exercise, caffeine, and anxiety can cause a faster heart rate. Say you are sitting or in some other relaxed state and your heart starts racing. This could be a sign that something is wrong. Dizziness and lightheadedness can also be symptoms.
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