Heart disease is a critical health issue for anyone. In fact, it is responsible for approximately 1 in 5 deaths in the US each year and is the deadliest disease. It is also a problem for individuals of any gender or ethnicity. However, there are also some lifestyle choices and other factors that put you at higher risk for developing heart disease. Common factors include:
- Unhealthy diet
- Low physical activity
- Family history of heart disease or other heart conditions
It can be difficult to spot the signs of heart disease if you’re not aware of what they are. That is why it is essential to develop that awareness and know your risks so you can take action quickly and help prevent heart disease from leading to heart attack, stroke, or other potentially fatal health incidents.
#1: Chest Pain or Pain in the Neck, Jaw, or Back
It can be very easy to dismiss random pains. Small moments of discomfort can be normal, but if you find yourself dismissing pain in your chest, neck, jaw, or back, you could be experiencing complications from heart disease. Heart disease also presents differently in men than in women. Men are more likely to have the “typical” chest pain, also known as angina. But women are more likely to have pain in other areas of the body, like the neck, jaw, or back. If you begin to notice a pattern, then contact your healthcare provider. There’s no harm in asking questions and having some baseline diagnostic information just in case.
#2: Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is also easy to dismiss because you may be engaging in aerobic exercise, running up or down stairs, or even experiencing a panic attack. However, there are ways to spot shortness of breath that is more likely to be connected to heart disease. Your shortness of breath may be concerning if:
- You experience it after minimal aerobic activity, like a short walk or even simple tasks like getting up and down to cross a room
- You feel so short of breath that it wakes you up at night when you were sleeping soundly
- You experience it at seemingly random times, such as when reclining or lying down and in no way exerting yourself
This symptom is definitely easier to notice because it is less common to feel dizzy or to lose consciousness at random. Dizziness and/or fainting become even more concerning if you have any risk factors for heart disease or any of the other symptoms on this list. As with the other symptoms, as soon as you notice a pattern or become concerned at all, immediately contact your primary care physician. Even if the cause is not heart disease, ongoing problems with dizziness or fainting indicate other potential medical conditions that should be adequately diagnosed.
#4: Swelling, Pain, Numbness, or Weakness in Limbs
When your heart is struggling to function properly, it will affect your limbs especially because your blood is not properly circulating. There are some clearcut signs of poor circulation that may be connected to heart disease. You may notice swelling in your limbs because of fluid buildup. You could have tingling, pain, or numbness in your arms and legs as well. You could also experience overall weakness when trying to use your limbs. A final sign that is definitely a strong indication of major circulatory problems is a change in color in your arms and legs, especially a pale gray or blue hue to your skin.
#5: Unexplainable Exhaustion or Fatigue
Everyone feels tired once in a while, but if you’re having frequent issues with your energy level, then it could be an indicator of heart disease. Essentially, your heart is working overtime to try to perform its function but can’t keep up with the demands of the rest of your body. Without appropriate circulation and oxygenated blood traveling smoothly to your other organs and body systems, you are bound to notice a difference in your overall energy. A strong indication of underlying health issues is the inability to stay awake and alert even when you’ve had a full night’s sleep and have no other illness or injury. You should contact your provider because ongoing exhaustion or fatigue is problematic for your health regardless of the source.
The biggest takeaway is to always self-advocate if you are concerned about your health. If you’re worried, start a discussion with your primary care provider and maybe consider some preliminary testing. It could be a life-changing decision.
If you are reading these risks and symptoms and thinking it’s time to seek help, consider the robust cardiology services at Henry Community Health. We have a team of cardiologists ready to help you navigate your symptoms and guide you through the diagnostic processes. We also give you access to services through our partnership with the Ascension St. Vincent Heart Center.
Don’t hesitate to take control of your heart health and call today: 765-521-1461.