10 Silent Signs of Heart Disease
Sometimes you have to read between the lines to find a diagnosis.
Not every case of heart disease is as dramatic as what you see on Grey’s Anatomy. In fact, according to a report from Harvard Health Publishing, some 45 percent of heart attacks are categorized as silent myocardial infarctions (SMIs)—meaning that “when they occur, their symptoms lack the intensity of a classic heart attack”—and Public Health England estimated in 2016 that some 600,000 people in the country are living with undiagnosed heart disease.
But if not every heart disease diagnosis is glaringly obvious, then how are doctors—let alone you—supposed to know when your ticker is calling out for help? Getting a routine check-up is always a good way to maintain your health, of course, but you should also memorize these silent signs of heart disease so you know if and when to seek emergency treatment.
According to the American Heart Association, unexplainable fatigue is one of the most common silent signs of heart disease. That’s because when the heart is unable to pump an adequate amount of blood throughout the body, the circulatory system responds by diverting blood away from less vital organs like the muscles in the limbs. This, in turn, causes the tiredness that patients with heart disease experience.
“Typical symptoms [of a silent myocardial infarction] like mild pain in the throat or chest can be confused with gastric reflux, indigestion, and heartburn,” explain the editors at Harvard Health. In addition to being a sign of a heart attack, throat pain can also indicate other illnesses like atherosclerotic disease and rheumatic heart disease.
However, since so many patients mistake their warning signs for something less severe, they often put off seeing a doctor until their condition has worsened past the point of treatment—making it all the more important for individuals to brush up on the silent symptoms of heart disease.
Pressure in the Center of the Chest
Though most people associate heart disease with pain on the left side of the chest—where the heart is located—it is actually more common for a person experiencing a heart attack to feel pressure or pain in the center. “Heart attacks most often cause discomfort in the center of the chest, along with a sensation of unremitting squeezing, fullness, or tightness,” cardiologist Dr. Curtis Rimmerman, MD, explained to the Cleveland Clinic. And for more information about your heart health, check out What Happens to Your Body When You’re Having a Heart Attack.
Feeling sick to your stomach could be a sign that you accidentally ate some expired sushi, but it could also be a silent sign that your heart isn’t working like it’s supposed to. This happens because heart disease diverts blood away from the digestive system, thereby causing unpleasant digestive issues.
In serious scenarios, lightheadedness can be one of the silent signs of heart disease. This occurs because your major organs—like your brain—are getting less blood and therefore can’t function properly. Usually, you can differentiate dizziness caused by heart disease from less serious lightheadedness thanks to the accompanying symptoms.
Shortness of Breath
Unless you’re running a 5K or taking an intense spinning class, you shouldn’t be gasping for air like your life depends on it. And if you do find yourself short of breath while sleeping or watching TV, this could be because blood is backing up in your pulmonary veins and leaking into your lungs where it shouldn’t be. And while you’re brushing up on your health knowledge, here are 23 Crucial Facts About Heart Health Every Woman Should Know.
Pain experienced anywhere in the upper body could be a symptom of heart disease—not just the chest. According to the Cleveland Clinic, when the heart is having difficulty, “it triggers nerves” that can be felt elsewhere. So if you’re dealing with discomfort in either of your arms, your back, your neck, your jaw, or your stomach and you can’t explain why, then it might be time to get your heart checked out—just to be safe.
Sleep problems aren’t just a risk factor for heart disease, but they’re also a symptom. Thanks to things like shortness of breath and heart palpitations, many a heart disease patient report experiencing sleep disturbances like sleep apnea, orthopnea, and insomnia in the months leading up to their diagnoses—disturbances that usually subside as soon as their conditions are treated.
Feeling confused isn’t necessarily a sign that something’s amiss with your brain. According to the American Heart Association, heart failure directly impacts how much sodium is in your blood, and this, in turn, can lead to confusion and impaired thinking.
You can once again thank impaired blood flow for this subtle heart attack symptom. Basically, because a heart attack causes the blood vessels throughout the body to narrow, it limits the amount of blood your extremities receive and therefore causes them to go numb. And if you want to avoid experiencing these symptoms, then stock up on these 40 Heart Foods To Eat After 40.
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