You take care of your car with regular oil changes, and replace the brake pads when they wear out. You keep mold from growing in your shower, and you are quick to get your cable and TV fixed when it goes awry. Taking care of the day-to-day essentials can make life a whole lot smoother. So can taking care of your heart. It's just harder to see when this essential muscle is having hiccups. It's not as obvious as a flickering TV, or a set of squealing brake pads.
Luckily, there are few surprising signs of an unhealthy heart that you can easily watch out for. Don't let the symptoms sneak by you - and you certainly don't wait until you are having a heart attack! Paying attention to a few key symptoms could save your life, or the life of someone you love.
Here are nine things to monitor that can indicate how your ticker is ticking and signs of an unhealthy heart:
1. Swollen, Bleeding, Sore Gums
Most dentists know, there is a connection between your gum health and your cardiovascular health. Some of the same bacteria can be found in both places. If you have periodontal disease, this could indicate that you may have a bit of underlying heart disease occurring in your veins and arteries as well.
2. Snoring and Sleep Apnea
If you or your partner has sleep apnea, then your chances of having a heart attack in the next 5 years is triple the normal risk. The reason? Sleep apnea may damage the right side of the heart, because of the strain your lungs are under trying to break through obstruction. Sleep problems can occur from other things like excessive snoring, and it's a good idea to get your heart checked out too.
3. Swollen Feet and Legs
If you have a problem with your shoes getting tight by the end of the day, and excessive fluid gathers in your legs and feet, you might be experiencing some fluid retention. It's easy to identify when you take off your socks, and you can see deep marks or indents into your ankles and legs, accompanied by puffy areas of skin. This is called edema, and is an indicator of coronary artery disease (CAD), which is where the arteries that supply blood to your heart tissue are blocked. Edema can point to other kinds of cardiovascular disease and even heart failure.
Especially if it is persistent, coughing is one signal that you may have fluid accumulation in your lungs, which is one of the symptoms of heart failure. Now if you were sick and had a small cold, a little coughing is not something to worry about. But if you feel like you struggle to breathe because of fluid in your lungs, it might be related to your heart not pumping blood the way it is supposed to, and the lack of pressure causes fluid to accumulate where it normally shouldn't- such as in your lungs. This could be a sign of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which begins with an unhealthy heart.
If you have an abnormal heart rhythm (known as an arrhythmia), then you could feel a little lightheaded, and would want to report this to your doctor. A heart attack can also cause dizziness, and fainting or loss of consciousness.
Women do not typically experience the same signs of an unhealthy heart as men do. In fact, often women report extreme fatigue, as if someone let all the air out of their balloon, prior to having a heart attack. This fatigue can arise a few days leading up to a heart event, and so going to get it checked out immediately can mean life or death for some women. It's important not to waste time in this situation, as it could also indicate heart failure.
7. No appetite and Nausea
During a heart attack, it's common that a person may experience nausea and possibly be sick to their stomach enough to throw up. If you have heart failure, sometimes fluid can build up in the abdominal cavity, causing it to swell. This can really affect with your appetite, causing you to be less hungry. Both of these symptoms are direct signs of an unhealthy heart, and you will want to pay attention to them, and visit your doctor regularly to learn ways to reduce your risk of having a cardiac event such as a stroke, blood clot, or heart attack.
If you are just sitting at your desk or in your armchair, and all of a sudden you break out into a drenching sweat, it may be the initial signs of a cardiac event. You might look like you just had a huge workout, but you were actually just sitting, relaxed. This is absolutely the time to call 911.
This overall feeling of lack of strength manifests during the days leading up to a heart attack. The feebleness and unexplained weakness can be severe, and is very different from just feeling tired at the end of a long day.
If you find that one or more of the above signs describes your condition, seek advice from a medical professional immediately. This article is intended solely for informational purposes, and only your healthcare provider can make an accurate assessment of your heart health.