Heart disease describes a broad range of heart conditions that could include blood vessel diseases such as coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, and congenital heart defects. It’s also used interchangeably with cardiovascular disease, which refers to narrowed or blocked blood vessels.
Cardiovascular disease can lead to a heart attack or stroke, which is why it is such a serious illness. However, this disease can be both prevented and treated with healthy lifestyle choices.
(We’ve created a free guide to living well after a heart disease diagnosis to discuss some of those healthy choices.)
If you’re concerned you might have heart disease, here are nine symptoms you should know about so you can talk with your doctor.
Unusual tiredness can be a symptom of many different types of illnesses, but it's an often overlooked sign of heart failure. Fatigue is much different than drowsiness.
In addition to tiredness, it also often involves difficulties with motivation and maintaining the stamina to complete common everyday tasks.
2. Shortness of Breath
Do you find yourself struggling to climb the stairs? Is it getting harder to make the short walk from the parking lot to your office? Shortness of breath can often be thought of as simply being out of shape, but it's actually a very common symptom of heart failure.
When the heart is less efficient at pumping blood around the body, blood can accumulate when traveling to and from the lungs. The additional fluid makes it harder for the lungs to work.
3. Sudden Weight Gain
Again, water retention is the key factor in this symptom. Sudden onset weight gain could be a symptom of a variety of illnesses, but if you're at risk for heart failure, it’s worth speaking with a physician.
4. Swollen Feet or Ankles
If you're experiencing chronic swelling in your legs, feet or ankles, it could be a symptom of heart disease. This type of swelling is called peripheral edema, which might first appear as “sock marks” on your legs at the end of the day.
You can also check for swelling by pressing a finger against your ankle or shin bone to see if a dent is left behind, which is called “pitting edema.
Just like shortness of breath, this symptom is the result of excess fluid in the body that begins to leak out of blood vessels and into surrounding tissues. It starts in the lower extremities simply because of gravity.
5. Frequent Urination
The kidneys might go into overdrive to manage the excess water retention in the bloodstream. This symptom might be even more common during the night.
6. Heart Palpitations
Abnormal heart rhythms aren’t always a cause for concern. Too much caffeine, not enough water or anxiety can cause heart palpitations. However, if you’re noticing unprovoked heart rhythm irregularities or an increase in heart palpitation frequency, then it might be time to talk to your doctor about it.
7. Yellow Bumps on the Skin
Xanthomas are fat deposits under the skin, and they can be a sign of heart disease since they indicate high levels of fats in the blood. Xanthelasma palpebrarum is another form of this symptom that appears on the eyelids.
8. Gum Disease
Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of puffy, bleeding gums. However, some research has found a link between these two illnesses. It’s possible they occur simultaneously because they are both signs of poor circulation. Another theory is the same bacteria are involved in both gum disease and plaque buildup in the arteries.
9. A Nighttime Cough
Persistent coughing while laying flat could be a sign of fluid build up in the chest. This is another concerning symptom when it is accompanied by other heart disease symptoms.
Signs of a Heart Attack
Untreated heart disease will progressively get worse over time, but a heart attack needs immediate medical attention. Here are symptoms indicating you should go to the hospital or call 911 to receive life saving treatment:
- Chest Discomfort
- Discomfort in Other Areas of the Body
- Lightheadedness, Nausea, and Vomiting
- Jaw, Neck or Back Pain
- Discomfort or Pain in the Arm and Shoulder
- Shortness of Breath
- Cold Sweat
Early intervention for heart disease is key to improving quality of life, which is why heart scans can be a powerful tool for taking control of your life. Schedule your heart scan today by calling Advanced Body Scan of Tulsa at 918-879-6161.
Heart disease is not a death sentence. We’ve outlined exactly how you can live well after receiving this devastating diagnosis. Download our free ebook now!