Heart disease is a major health issue in the US. With so many people affected, it’s important to monitor your symptoms and risk factors to stay on top of your own heart health. Whether symptoms point to a heart attack or signs of heart disease which could lead to something more serious, they are very important to watch. Monitoring your heart health, knowing your risk factors, and discussing any symptoms with your doctor are all key in keeping you healthy.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Risk factors for heart disease can be genetic, or lifestyle-based. Risks associated with genetic factors include your age, and family history with heart disease. Lifestyle-based risk factors are ones that you can work to improve to limit your risk of heart disease.
The Big Three
One of the most common risk factors for heart disease is having high cholesterol. Unfortunately, there are no clear signs of unhealthy levels of cholesterol. Getting tested is the best way to know if you’re at risk. Read more about cholesterol and how you can improve your cholesterol health here. Another common risk to your heart-health is smoking. When you smoke, you damage your blood vessels and heart. You also limit the amount of oxygen in your blood. Finally, high blood pressure is another common risk factor for heart disease. As it too has no overt symptoms, monitoring your blood pressure is key for your heart health. If you know that you have one or more risk factors for heart disease, pay close attention to the symptoms below. These symptoms in combination with elevated risk factors could mean you should seek medical attention.
Heart Health Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
Below is a list of heart disease symptoms that you should take seriously. This is especially true if you have more than one of these symptoms, or you have one or more risk factors for heart disease.
Pain in your left arm is something to watch out for, especially if it seems to be getting worse over the course of a few minutes. Often, when people are experiencing a heart attack, this can be one of the first symptoms. Though it is most common to experience the pain in your left arm, it can affect either one. It’s important to note that sometimes people have pain in their arm but no pain in their chest while having a heart attack. This is one of the reasons that you should pay close attention to arm pain. Experiencing this symptom along with any other heart health symptom is a major flag that you may need medical assistance.
Chest Pain, Tightness or Pressure
If you experience discomfort in your chest including pain, tightness, or pressure, this could be angina. Angina occurs when your heart isn’t receiving enough oxygen-rich blood. Angina can be a warning sign for future heart health trouble, so it should be assessed and treated by your doctor. Chest discomfort is also one of the most common signs of a heart attack. This type of pain might not be severe, and it may come and go. Since heart attacks should be treated as quickly as possible, you should never ignore this type of pain or discomfort in your chest.
If you notice that your heartbeat is irregular, you should have it checked by a doctor. Sometimes, an irregular heartbeat is not a risk, and can be caused by things like nervousness or too much caffeine. However, sometimes it can be a heart condition that may need special treatment or care. If left untreated, serious issues may further complicate your heart health and put you at greater risk.
Dizziness or Loss of Consciousness
If your blood pressure drops suddenly, you may experience dizziness or even fainting. This could happen because your heart is unable to function properly. Though mild dizziness or light-headedness may not be cause for concern, pay close attention. If you experience the symptoms of low blood pressure along with any other heart-health symptoms, call a doctor.
Extreme Fatigue or Shortness of Breath
Extreme fatigue or sudden weakness is a major red flag, especially in women. When you notice unexplained changes in your ability to exercise, it could be a significant clue to your heart health. If you get exhausted easily or have difficulty doing physical activity that you would normally be able to do, take note. Also, pay close attention if you have difficulty breathing even while resting. Shortness of breath in any of these situations should be addressed with your doctor to find the root of the issue.
Pain in your Jaw and Throat
Pain in your jaw and throat specifically when you are also experiencing arm or chest pain is a red flag for a heart attack. Often, people experience radiating pain from their heart which travels up to their jaw and throat. Though there are many other reasons for this type of pain on its own, keep this symptom in mind. If you’re unsure about other symptoms you’re experiencing, this one may point to heart health issues.
Much like pain in your jaw and throat, digestive issues on their own are not cause for great concern. However, it’s interesting to note that when combined with other heart health symptoms, it could point to something serious. Many people report feeling nausea and stomach pain while experiencing a heart attack. Keep this in mind in case it is one of many symptoms you feel.
The Bottom Line
One of the best ways to take care of your heart health is to have regular check-ups with your doctor. You can also make sure you’re living a healthy lifestyle, including improving your cholesterol health, quitting smoking, and staying active. Knowing your risk factors for heart disease is also important. Since many symptoms of heart disease are subtle, staying on top of your risk factors and symptoms can help you decide when it’s best to seek medical attention. If you’re ever worried, call your doctor. It’s better to be safe rather than sorry.
Your Heart Health
With over 3,500 diagnostic tests available, Your Health Lab lets you stay on top of your heart health. Talk to your doctor to find out which tests are right for you.