Your heart is an indispensable organ. It beats about 100,000 times a day, which averages about three billion beats in its lifetime. Slightly larger than your fist, your heart is a muscle that pumps blood through your circulatory system. Because your heart is so important to your good health, it is important to know the symptoms of heart disease. Here are 15 symptoms of heart disease that you should never ignore.
What is heart disease?
The term heart disease is an inclusive term for various conditions that affect the function and structure of your heart. Heart disease includes diseases of the blood vessels like coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems like arrhythmias, and congenital heart defects. Heart disease is often referred to as cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease includes the narrowing or blockage of blood vessels, so your body cannot get enough oxygen. Crashes cause life-threatening problems like the following:
- Heart attack
- Angina pectoris
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Structure of the heart
Your heart has two separate chambers or pumping systems. There is a camera on the right side and a camera on the left side of your heart. The right side of the heart receives blood from the veins and pumps it to the lungs. In the lungs, this blood receives oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. The left side of your heart receives blood from your lungs. It then pumps the blood to your arteries and other parts of your body.
15 symptoms of heart disease (or cardiovascular disease)
1 – Pain or throbbing in the chest
This is a common symptom of heart disease. The pain is due to a blocked artery. You may feel tightness or some pressure in or on your chest. Everyone describes it a little differently. Some people say that it feels like a large animal is sitting on their chest. Other people say they have a burning sensation in their chest. It can last a few minutes. It can happen when you are active or resting. Call 911 if symptoms don’t go away after a few minutes or if they get worse. Do not drive yourself to the emergency room.
2 – High blood pressure or hypertension
Hypertension occurs when blood hits the walls of the arteries too hard. Your doctor measures this force by taking your blood pressure. There are usually no symptoms of high blood pressure. See the chart below for the different American Heart Association blood pressure ranges.
If you don’t lower your blood pressure, you could have a stroke or heart attack. Exercise, eating less salt, and a healthy diet can help lower blood pressure. If none of these things work, your doctor will give you medicine to control your blood pressure.
3 – Stomach pain along with indigestion
During a heart attack, some people experience indigestion, nausea, or stomach pain. Women tend to have this symptom during a heart attack more than men. If you have a stomach ache and any other heart attack symptoms, call 911 immediately, as you could be having a heart attack.
4 – Arm pain
Pain that radiates to the left arm is a classic symptom of a heart attack. The pain usually moves from your chest outward. The main symptom of a heart attack in some people is just arm pain, so never ignore this symptom.
5 – dizziness
If you have a combination of dizziness and chest discomfort, you may be having a heart attack. Dizziness is caused by your blood pressure dropping quickly because your heart is not pumping properly. Call 911 immediately. Never drive yourself to the emergency room.
6 – Jaw or throat pain
This is an unusual symptom of heart disease. But if you have a sore jaw or throat and chest pain, it could indicate that you have a heart attack. You should call 911 right away if you have this symptom, along with other heart attack symptoms.
7 – Sudden fatigue or extreme tiredness
This is a subtle symptom that is easy to ignore. If you notice that you have been exhausted for the past few months, you should make an appointment to discuss this with your doctor. Small changes are important, so don’t ignore them. It could be a sign of early heart disease.
8 – Snoring
If you snore loudly, almost like you are choking or gasping, it could be a sign of Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea means that you stop breathing while you sleep. This puts pressure on your heart and can cause heart disease. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss these symptoms. Your doctor can prescribe a CPAP machine, which can help you breathe better at night.
9 – cold sweats
If you find yourself bursting into a cold sweat and you don’t exercise or do anything strenuous, this could be a sign of a heart attack. Usually this symptom will present with other heart attack symptoms. Feel free to call 911. Better safe than sorry.
10 – A long-lasting cough
You may be surprised to learn that having a cough that has lasted for many months could be a sign of heart disease. If you are coughing up pink or white mucus, this is a sign of heart failure. This happens because your heart cannot keep pumping blood throughout your body, so the blood returns to your lungs. Make an appointment with your doctor to have your lungs and heart checked.
Edema is a red flag for heart disease. If your legs, ankles, or fingers are swollen, your heart is not pumping properly, so blood pools in your veins and causes swelling. Heart disease makes it hard for your kidneys to remove water and sodium from your body. This is another reason for edema.
12 – Irregular heartbeat
Everyone’s heart races every now and then, usually when they’re excited or nervous, but if it happens often enough, it could be a sign of heart disease. Talk to your doctor about how you feel. Some people say that it is like drinking too much caffeine and your heart beats fast. It could be a sign of atrial fibrillation, which should be treated with a doctor.
13 – Migraines
Studies show that heart attacks are more common during a migraine, especially if you have migraines with auras. If you have heart disease in your family, you may not want to take migraine medications called triptans, as they narrow your blood vessels. Talk to your doctor about managing your migraines and your chances of having a heart attack during one.
14 – Being a father
Granted, this is not so much a symptom as a lifestyle factor that contributes to heart disease. But parents have a great chance of heart disease, and the chances increase for each child. It is true for both men and women. For women, if you have your first period before age 12 and your periods stopped before age 46, then you have a higher chance of having a stroke. Also, women who have had a miscarriage or hysterectomy are at increased risk for heart disease.
15 – be short
It doesn’t seem fair, but being short puts you at higher risk for heart disease. Every 2.5 inches shorter than your average height increases your chances of heart disease by almost 10%. The average height of women in the United States is 5 feet 4 inches. The average height of men is 5 feet 9 inches. Short people are at higher risk for heart disease because short people tend to have higher cholesterol levels.
How do you keep your heart healthy?
Heart health means eating foods low in saturated and trans fat. Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grains. Limit your amount of sugar and salt. Eat lean meats and add fish to your diet at least twice a week. Other good heart-healthy options include the following habits:
- Exercise: Because your heart is a muscle, it takes a lot of exercise on your part to stay strong. Exercising is a great way to avoid heart disease.
- Stop smoking: this goes without saying. Smoking is hard on your heart and lungs.
- Lose Weight: Maintain your weight to lower your cholesterol levels and prevent blockages.
- Don’t overeat: overeating leads to weight gain.
- Limit your stress – Stress affects your heart. Of course, you can’t limit all stress, but find ways to relieve your stress like exercise.
- Drink vitamin D: Vitamin D is a great heart-healthy vitamin that you can include in your diet.
You can keep your heart healthy and strong by eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and getting an annual physical. But even with these heart preventive measures, your heart can get sick. If you have any of these symptoms of heart disease, don’t hesitate to call 911. You could be having a heart attack. Be sure to get a yearly checkup every year so your doctor can check your cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels. If they are high, your doctor may ask you to have a stress test to see how well your heart is working.
Talk to your doctor if you have a prolonged cough or feel like your heart is beating irregularly. These may be the first symptoms of heart disease. Heart health is important to keep you at your best. It is never too late to take care of your heart.