A person in the United States will die of cardiovascular disease every 36 seconds, making it one of the leading causes of death among Americans. In addition, approximately 655,000 Americans die of heart complications each year, which comes down to one in four deaths.
While these statistics are alarming, it is more alarming that many people totally ignore the small and insidious signs that could indicate cardiovascular problems.
“Many people see chest pain as a warning sign of cardiovascular disease,” said Mariko Harper, a doctor in Seattle. who specializes in cardiovascular disease, nuclear cardiology and echocardiography. But, he added, “While more than half of people have chest discomfort when they have a heart attack, up to a third of patients – especially women – have no chest symptoms. They may present with more atypical or more subtle symptoms. “
Ignoring these signs means ignoring all of your well-being.
If the body was thought of as a machine, the heart would be the battery that powers it, said Aeshita Dwivedi, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Basically, without a heart that is functioning properly, the rest of the body cannot function optimally,” she says.
Here are some subtle but serious signs that you may be suffering from a cardiovascular problem, along with tips on how to improve your heart health:
Swelling of the lower limbs
Christine Bishara, founder of According to Integrative Medical Practice From Within Medical in New York City, swelling in the lower legs, especially the ankles and feet, can signify heart disease. This problem is also called edema.
“If your heart loses its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body – whether due to weakened heart muscles or damage to heart tissue from a silent heart attack – blood flow may slow down and recede in the legs. , causing swelling, ”she said.
Shortness of breath
As mentioned, some people will not experience chest pain when they have heart problems. While it can happen to anyone, Bishara said it’s especially true for people with diabetes. Instead, they may have difficulty breathing.
“Because diabetes affects and attenuates nervous sensations, [someone who is diabetic] with severe heart disease may never experience symptoms of chest pain, ”she says. “That is why shortness of breath should never be ignored, especially if it is a new occurrence.”
Another subtle sign of heart trouble, Bishara says, feeling tired that you just can’t seem to shake. Especially if he apparently came out of nowhere.
“If the symptoms of fatigue are acute onset or without any identifiable underlying cause, see your doctor,” she says.
Unexplained pain in the upper back, left shoulder, or arm
Bishara said the pains “shouldn’t be ignored, as they can also be signs of a heart block or an impending heart attack. Back symptoms are common in women and can sometimes be the only symptom. ” This is especially true if the pain is random (for example, you did not force anything during exercise).
Palpitations that come out of nowhere
The timing of such palpitations matters just as much as the symptom itself. Keep in mind that exercise, caffeine, and anxiety can all cause your pulse to speed up. However, let’s say you’re sitting or in some other relaxed state and your heart starts to pound, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Dizziness and vertigo may also be symptoms.
Cardiovascular problems can be manifested by discomfort in the jaw. Marcus Smith, physician at the Oklahoma Cardiovascular Health Clinic, said patients complained of jaw pain that they initially believed was related to their teeth. They later learned it was linked to angina, which can be a heart problem.
“The nerves that innervate your heart and pick up the sensation of pain are the same nerves that pick up the same sensation for orthopedic, gastrointestinal and dental problems; it’s the same distribution of nerves, ”he says. “People who often have heart problems will say that they have had pain in their jaw. Therefore, no symptoms should be pushed to the side, as this could represent a heart symptom.
What to do if you have these symptoms
If you experience any of these issues, it is best to see a doctor. (If you think you are having a heart attack or stroke, definitely call 911.)
Smith said your doctor will first ask you questions about your lifestyle and behaviors to assess your risk factors. From there, you can have an exam (or be referred to a cardiologist) to get a better look at what’s going on.
There are also things you should be doing outside of your doctor’s office. Suzanne Steinbaum, a volunteer medical expert for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement and a cardiologist in New York City, recommended taking action to improve your overall heart health. The first is to keep an eye on your blood pressure. A normal range is 120/80 or less.
“High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” Steinbaum said. “Watching your diet and exercise, and incorporating stress management are key to lowering your blood pressure.”
Cholesterol also plays an important role. For adults, total cholesterol should be around 200 or less (the lower the better). LDL cholesterol (known as bad cholesterol) should be below 100 for both women and men. HDL (the good cholesterol) should be 40 or more for men and 50 or more for women.
“High cholesterol contributes to dental plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke,” said Steinbaum. “When you get your cholesterol under control, you give your arteries their best chance of staying clear of blockages. Cholesterol can often be managed with dietary changes, increasing the amount of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and incorporating healthy fats. Reducing saturated fat is also an important part of this. “
Finally, try the best you can to get a movement you like. The American Heart Association recommends about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. (Here is a list of activities you can do to achieve that goal – no boring cardio required!)
“Living an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and the ones you love,” Steinbaum said. “Put simply, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life.”