Overview of Heart:
It is a well-known fact that your heart is one of the most important organs in your body. This muscle may only be the size of your fist, but it is one of the most hardworking organs. It never gets a break and pumps blood lifelong to keep you healthy and alive. But there is quite a long list of the things that could go wrong with this vital organ. Needless to say, any problem with your heart will take a serious toll on your body. But, if you pay attention to your body and visit your doctor every now and then, you could get ahead all of these issues. So, it is important for you to know more about the warnings and subtle signs which may signal heart trouble.
What are Heart Diseases?:
Chest pain is not always the only symptom linked to a heart problem. Similarly, a heart attack is not the only heart problem one could develop. Coronary artery disease, heart attack, arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, heart valve diseases, heart failure, congenital heart defects, heart muscle disease, pericarditis, peripheral vascular diseases etc. are all heart diseases that could happen to anybody. There are a wide range of symptoms starting from pain in the toe to extreme fatigue that can signal the onset of any of these diseases.
Warning signs that should not be ignored:
Not all heart problems come with a clear statutory warning sign prior to it. There is not always a sudden chest clutch before falling to the floor. Certain heart diseases have symptoms which have nothing to do with your chest. This makes it all the more difficult to understand what is going on. Especially, if you are 60 or older, any small changes happening in the body should be examined by the doctor. Following are the signs from your heart that you should always be on the lookout for:
- Open sores on the feet: Having open sores or ulcers on the feet can be extremely painful as well as be a sign for aortoiliac occlusive disease (Blockage of artery). It needs to be checked by the doctor immediately as it could also lead to tissue death, gangrene or even limb loss if left untreated.
- Toe pain: If you often feel pain in your toes with no apparent reason and a kind of coldness or numbness in your legs while resting, it is time to visit the doctor. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a buildup of plaque and cholesterol in the arteries that lead to your extremities. PAD may cause discomfort in the legs and feet, and can limit walking and other physical activities. Severe PAD can also progress to loss of the limb. Your treating physician can check for signs of PAD with a simple test of pulses in your feet.The presence of PAD shows a raised risk for heart disease. Therefore, screening and awareness of the connection between coronary artery disease (CAD) and PAD is important.
- Jaw pain: Jaw pain is one of the most common heart attack symptoms. And it is not only associated with the left side. It could happen to any side and could point to the manifestation of some cardiac event.
- Butt/thigh cramps: If you are experiencing cramps in your thighs, buttocks or calves all of a sudden, please be alert. Taking a simple stroll does not cause that and this symptom needs to be examined.
- Frequent peeing at night: Though increased urination is also a sign of diabetes; it also could point towards heart failure. So, if you are wondering why you have to get up multiple times to pee at night, you should ask a doctor.
- Rapid weight gain: One of the much lesser-known symptoms of heart failure is a rapid weight gain. It could look like gaining two to three pounds in one day to even five pounds in a week. This is a result of your body retaining fluid due to improper pumping of the heart.
- Swollen areas: If your feet, ankles or legs are getting swollen without any reason, it could be due to the buildup of excess fluid. This point towards an oncoming heart failure and cardiomyopathy.
- Sweating: If you suddenly start sweating or break into a cold sweat, your skin gets cold or clammy, you may be having a heart attack. Do not wait to figure it out. You need to call for help immediately.
- Dizziness: Suddenly feeling sick or dizzy is also sometimes a symptom of a heart attack. Even if there is no chest pain, feeling nausea could signal a heart attack.
- Fluttery feeling: If you notice a heart palpitation i.e. a super-fast or pounding heartbeat, your heart could be trying to warn you about a coronary artery disease. Also, a fluttering or thumping feeling in the chest could be a symptom of atrial fibrillation and you need to see your doctor.
- Always tired: Getting tired every now and then is fine. But, if you are feeling fatigued every day and the feeling never seems to go, it could be a sign of a heart problem like arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm).
- Snoring: It is absolutely normal to snore a bit while you sleep. But, if you are experiencing unusually loud snoring accompanied with gasping or choking, you could be experiencing sleep apnea. This puts more stress on your heart and could lead to a failure or a stroke.
- Breathlessness: If you are experiencing shortness of breath even when lying down, there might be some problem. Getting easily tired or having difficulty catching your breath after doing something completely normal like climbing the stairs or getting groceries are not good signs. It could be symptoms of a heart valve disease or even a congenital heart disease.
- Severe headaches: If you are having severe headaches or migraines on a regular basis, do not seem to overlook it. It could be due to a stroke or a blood clot in the heart. Especially, if this is coupled with vomiting or dizziness, it is a matter of urgent concern.
- Cyanosis: This is the appearance of a bluish tint to the skin, fingernails and lips of children having congenital heart defects. They will also experience recurrent lung infections, fast breathing and get tired easily.
- Chest pain: Discomfort in the chest due to acute sharp pain located in the chest is due to coronary artery disease. Help should be called for immediately. However, when the pain seems to spread to the neck, back and even to the arms, it may signal towards pericarditis. It is often accompanied with fever.
How to keep a heart healthy:
So, there are innumerable symptoms that can point towards a heart condition. But the good news is there are quite a few preventive measures too. Following these instructions and incorporating them in your lifestyle is sure to keep your heart healthy and any potential disease at bay. These include:
- High blood pressure is a major factor of developing any heart disease. So, keeping that in check could reduce the risk considerably.
- Maintaining a healthy weight helps to keep the risk low.
- Controlling health conditions like diabetes can lower the risk of heart conditions. Keeping high cholesterol, high triglyceride levels etc. under check also helps to keep a check on heart diseases.
- Getting regular exercise – at least 30 minutes of it – helps to strengthen the heart. This improves the blood circulation and lowers the risk.
- Smoking puts one at a greater risk of developing a heart disease. So, quitting it is the only and best option.
- Limiting alcohol to no more than two drinks per day for men and at most one drink a day for women is very crucial to curb heart diseases. Alcohol raises the blood pressure as well as adds to calories.
- Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains lowers the risk of a heart disease. You need to avoid foods having high-saturated fat content, high sodium or added sugars.
- Stress is directly correlated to heart diseases. Extreme stress could act as a trigger for heart attack. So, you should know how to keep your stress under control and relax your mind every now and then.
- Getting quality sleep at night is very important to have a healthy heart. One should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
Though certain types of heart diseases like congenital ones cannot be prevented, most other types can be. You need to remember; they will not always give you a clear sign. But they will give you symptoms that you should learn to recognize. If your heart or body gives you any such sign, contact the necessary specialist immediately for best effect.
An annual heart check is also crucial for identifying heart disease early and reversing them successfully.