Don't Ignore These Warning Signs of Heart Disease

Category: Heart Health | Senior Health

A couple walks together through a park with their arms intertwined.

Here are some key warning signs of heart disease that should be on your radar.

 

You're probably familiar with the classic "Hollywood heart attack": A man clutches his chest, screams, "I'm having a heart attack!" and falls to the floor. In reality, heart attacks are rarely this overt and obvious. For starters, the symptoms aren't always noticeable (not everyone has crushing chest pain) and are rarely the same person to person, or sex to sex—it isn't only men who are susceptible to heart attacks, after all.

Many times, heart attacks can strike unexpectedly; but by familiarizing yourself with the warning signs of heart disease, you can greatly reduce your chances of having a major event like a heart attack or stroke.

Here are some key warning signs of heart disease that should be on your radar.

Specific Body Pain

While pain in your chest, legs, arms, neck, jaw, stomach, or back may be caused by any number of issues, it's a smart move to get yourself checked out by your doctor if you're experiencing this kind of pain as it could be indicative of heart disease—especially if the symptoms come on suddenly and with no clear cause. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are also heart disease risk factors to be aware of; both of which can be managed through diet modifications, exercise, and possibly medication, which you can discuss with your doctor.

Women especially need to be on the lookout for neck, jaw, stomach, and back pain, which, when combined with other unusual symptoms, may signal an oncoming heart attack. Specifically, women need to be on the lookout for sharp, burning chest pain, nausea, and shortness of breath — all of which are potential indicators of heart disease.

Men and women both need to be wary of pain in their lower extremities, which could be a condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD), where blood flow is strained due to plaque buildup in your arteries. PAD can also increase one's risk of coronary artery disease (blood supply to the heart gets blocked), heart attack (complete blockage), and stroke.

In cases of sudden, severe chest pain, call 911 immediately, as you might be having a heart attack. A good rule of thumb: When in doubt about any discomfort in your body, don't be afraid to discuss the pain with your health care provider.

Shortness of Breath

If you're feeling unusually winded, it might mean your heart is in trouble. Shortness of breath can be a symptom of different types of heart disease, including coronary artery disease, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), cardiomyopathy (weakened heart muscle), or damage to one of the four valves that control blood flow through your heart.

Your body—especially your heart—needs oxygen to survive. So if you're having a hard time breathing, get in to see your doctor. And if you suddenly experience severe shortness of breath, get medical help immediately.

Dizziness or Fainting

Dizziness and fainting are general indicators that something isn't quite right, such as an illness rearing its head or your blood sugar may be low. But these instances can also indicate that blood isn't flowing through your vessels property. As with shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting could mean that you have an arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, or a valve problem.

Palpitations, Racing Heartbeat, or Slow Heartbeat

If your heart feels like it's going to leap out of your chest despite you being engaged in a mundane activity, get it checked out. The same goes for if your heartbeat seems slow or weak. Both a racing heartbeat and a crawling one could indicate an arrhythmia that will require treatment.

Swelling in Your Legs, Ankles, and Feet

Fluid retention, especially in your legs, ankles, and feet, may be a symptom of heart disease. When blood flow out of the heart slows, blood returning to the heart through the veins backs up and causes fluid to build up in the tissues. Your doctor might prescribe a diuretic (water pill) to help your body remove the extra fluid.

If you already have heart disease, or if you have major risk factors like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions and take your medication exactly as directed. You should also check with your doctor before trying any heart supplements such as fish oil, magnesium, or turmeric. Your Rite Aid Pharmacist can also answer any questions you might have about your dosing schedule, side effects, or drug interactions.

For more heart-healthy tips, visit Rite Aid's Heart Health Solution Center.

By Barbara Brody

 

Sources:

Harvard Health, Gender matters: Heart disease risk in women

American Heart Association, What is High Blood Pressure?


These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.