4 Signs Your Heart Health Is Suffering, According to a Cardiologist
Many Americans don't know these heart disease warning signs.
Problems with your heart can show up in unexpected ways. Bad breath, for example, can signal cardiovascular problems because of the link between gum disease and heart health. Another red flag? Certain changes that manifest in your skin, such as pitted skin on your feet and ankles.
It's important to be aware of the potential signs of heart trouble. The Cleveland Clinic reports that "many Americans didn't recognize key symptoms of heart attacks in women" and in addition, "don't recognize that most heart disease is preventable—for both men and women. Even though 90 percent of heart disease is due to modifiable/controllable risk factors, only eight percent of Americans know that."
Practice the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s heart-healthy lifestyle that includes a proper diet and adequate physical exercise, and be on the lookout for any warning signs that you might be having cardiovascular problems. Read on to find out about four potential red flags for your heart health.
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Jaw pain might seem like a type of discomfort more associated with a toothache or neck injury—and it's true that it can indicate other conditions, such as temporomandibular joints (TMJ) disorders. But "pain radiating to your jaw, back, neck, or arms may signal a heart condition, especially if the origin is hard to pinpoint," warns the Cleveland Clinic, which notes that there might be pain without specific muscle or joint pain: "If the discomfort begins or worsens when you are exerting yourself, and then stops when you quit exercising, you should also get it checked out."
Perspiration can tell you a lot about your health, and excessive sweating may be caused by various conditions, including menopause—which can lead to confusion. Women who sweat a lot at night "may mistake this symptom for an effect of menopause," cautions Healthline. "However, if you wake up and your sheets are soaked or you cannot sleep due to your sweating, this could be a sign of a heart attack, especially in women."
This occurs because "pumping blood through clogged arteries takes more effort from your heart, so your body sweats more to try to keep your body temperature down during the extra exertion," Healthline explains. "If you experience cold sweats or clammy skin, then you should consult your doctor."
Leslie Cho, MD tells the Cleveland Clinic that fatigue due to poor heart health isn't just everyday tiredness. "We're not talking about global fatigue like you feel tired at the end of the day [or] you needing to go take a nap at 5 o'clock," Cho says. "We're talking about you were able to walk up a couple of flights of stairs — and now you can barely walk up one [or] you can't walk upstairs without feeling severe fatigue."
"While this symptom is easy to dismiss, particularly for women who refuse to slow down, it should be a red flag if you're experiencing it along with any other strange symptoms," warns Women's Health. "Another sign: If you're feeling a level of weakness that you'd previously only experienced when sick with the flu. In this case, your heart may be struggling to oxygenate your body."
Chest pain is commonly thought of as a potential symptom of heart problem, but the pain can differ from person to person, says Fidelis O. Mkparu, MD, FACC. "It can manifest in many forms, ranging from a sharp sensation to a dull ache on the chest," Mkparu says. "It's more concerning when the location of the pain is between the middle to the left side of the chest."
Also known as angina, this pain occurs when the heart muscle doesn't receive sufficient oxygen-rich blood, according to the American Heart Association, which advises that the pain can feel like "pressure or squeezing" or even indigestion. "In addition, some people don't feel any pain but have other symptoms like shortness of breath or fatigue. If these symptoms are due to a lack of oxygen to the heart muscle, it's called an 'anginal equivalent.'"