It’s a normal day, and your body seems to be functioning just fine, till you suddenly feel overwhelmingly tired or just suddenly short of breath. You’ve probably just dismissed it with a nonchalant wave, attributing it to the stress of sticking to tight work deadlines or too much housework.
But have you ever wondered if these could be your body’s way of signaling to you that there could be something wrong with your heart?
To most of us, it seems impossible that these seemingly ordinary symptoms could be linked with something as serious as having a heart condition. However, heart diseases usually take a long time to develop till they become chronic, and by the time you experience the more specific symptoms that make you panic, it may as well be too late. This is why it is so important that we pay attention to the tinier hints to ensure we take the necessary preventive measures to avoid a bigger tragedy later on in the future.
Here are 6 such signs to stay on the lookout for. Bear in mind, these are very non-specific symptoms and may be associated with a variety of disorders, not just heart disease. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to check in with your doctor at every step
1. Dizziness Or Lightheadedness
Do you suddenly feel like the world is spinning after clocking into your gym? Dizziness or lightheadedness are common symptoms of dehydration or because you stood up too quickly. However, if this is a regular occurrence, you should consult with your doctor right away to see if it’s something to do with your heart. Dizziness is often a result of artery blockage or faulty heart valves that are lowering your blood pressure.1 2 When this happens, your organs fail to get the oxygen supply they need for proper functioning, throwing your body into a state where you feel lightheaded or like you’re about to pass out.
2. Extreme Fatigue
We’re not referring to the kind of tiredness you feel after a sleepless night. This is the kind of weariness and exhaustion that is common when you get a flu attack, except that unlike in the case of flu, this just refuses to go away. Many people blow this off thinking it will eventually wear off without stopping to wonder if it’s because your heart is straining to send out the necessary amounts of oxygen to your organs. Oxygen-starved organs will be unable to carry out their functions properly and will fuel your fatigue even further.
However, extreme fatigue is a very nonspecific symptom, and there could be a variety of reasons as to why you’re feeling tired. Therefore, don’t conclude you have a heart problem based on this symptom alone. Instead, talk to your doctor and let him tell you what he thinks.
3. Swollen Legs And/Or Feet
Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet is another nonspecific symptom that is associated with a whole lot of conditions like varicose veins, pregnancy, limited movement when you’re traveling, or diabetes or blood pressure medication. However, it could also be a sign of a faulty heart valve that refuses to close properly or deep vein thrombosis especially if it’s accompanied by other symptoms like tenderness in the feet region, shortness of breath or chest pain.3 4 If you notice your legs and/or your feet looking unusually swollen, it’s best to get your doctor’s opinion on the matter immediately.
4. Sore/Bleeding Gums Or Bad Breath
There is a strong link between poor oral health and cardiac diseases. When you don’t take proper care of your teeth and gums, you allow oral bacteria to penetrate your bloodstream and collect in your heart valves. In fact, studies say that Streptococcus sanguinis, one of the most common bacteria notoriously known for causing periodontal disease, may play a role in increasing one’s risk of coronary heart disease.5 Research also shows that regular periodontal therapy to treat inflammation may also lower one’s risk of heart disease risk.6
So If you notice yourself having bad mouth odor or redness or soreness in your gums, it may be time for not just a dentist’s visit but also a cardiac evaluation.
5. Abdominal Pain
The heart, gullet (that is, the passage between the mouth and stomach) and the stomach all lie right next to each other inside the human body. For this reason, it can be very challenging for both doctors and the common public to differentiate between indigestion-related pain and heart pain. Every clinic will have various algorithms that they can apply to try and get a correct diagnosis, but there are no hard and fast rules that apply to all since everyone’s body reacts differently.
If you experience abdominal pain that can’t be linked to something you ate, it may be an early sign of a heart attack, especially if it’s accompanied by symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and difficulty in breathing. Head to the emergency room immediately if this is a regular occurrence – for the faster you’re treated, the more accurate the prognosis.
6. Blue Fingernails/ Toenails
A bluish tinge on your nails whether it’s on the entire appendage or just at the tip could be because the air conditioner at work is running on a temperature that’s too low for your body’s liking. But if you notice your nails turning blue in spite of a perfectly pleasant weather, it may be a sign that these areas aren’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood because your heart isn’t pumping at a healthy rate. Visit your doctor right away to discuss this and see what the reports have to say.
|↑1||What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Carotid Artery Disease? National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute.|
|↑2, ↑3||What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease? National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute.|
|↑4||Deep vein thrombosis. National Health Services.|
|↑5||Deng, S., H. Chen, and W. Zhang. “The relativity between Streptococcus sanguis group and coronary heart disease.” Zhonghua kou qiang yi xue za zhi= Zhonghua kouqiang yixue zazhi= Chinese journal of stomatology 37, no. 3 (2002): 222-224.|
|↑6||Li, Chunjie, Zongkai Lv, Zongdao Shi, Ye Zhu, Yafei Wu, Longjiang Li, and Z. Iheozor-Ejiofor. “Periodontal therapy for the management of cardiovascular disease in patients with chronic periodontitis.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews 8 (2011).|