Heart disease accounts for 610,000 deaths in the U.S. each year – approximately one of every four deaths, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is the prominent cause of death for women and men alike with more than half of heart disease deaths annually occurring in men.
These are some of the signs and symptoms you can be on the lookout for if you believe your heart may be at risk.
Chest Pressure and Chest Discomfort (Angina)
Angina is sometimes referred to as chest pain or chest tightness and is a very common symptom of heart disease. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that women may experience pain in the back, neck, upper abdomen, throat or jaw as a result of heart failure.
Shortness of Breath
Often considered a sign of advanced heart disease or heart failure, shortness of breath and fatigue often occur with any exertion for heart failure patients and during common activities for patients who have heart disease.
Arrhythmia is a sort of fluttering feeling in your heart that occurs when your heart is beating out of rhythm. It may beat too fast, too slow, or simply irregularly. Some people refer to it as palpitations in the heart.
Narrowing of Arteries
One of the most common types of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease. With coronary artery disease, plaque (comprised of fatty deposits and cholesterol) builds up along the walls of your arteries, decreasing the flow of blood through them. Narrowing of the arteries is usually caused by clogging or hardening of the arteries as a result of a condition known as atherosclerosis. If you have this heart condition, you may experience numbness, coldness, weakness or pain in your arms or legs if these areas of your body have narrowed blood vessels.
Buildup of Fluid in the Body
This presents in swelling of the extremities and even the abdomen. You may notice that your shoes feel tighter. Common places for fluid to buildup include feet, ankles, legs, and abdomen. You may also experience weight gain as a result of the buildup.
In fact, you should monitor your weight regularly if you have heart disease and contact your physician if you gain more than two pounds overnight or five pounds in a week.
Other symptoms of coronary artery disease include:
- Chest Pain (often radiating to the arm, neck, or back)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Rapid Heartbeat
- Shortness of Breath
Beyond understanding the signs and symptoms of heart disease, it is equally important to understand the steps you can take to prevent it from becoming a major health hurdle to overcome in your future.
Preventing Heart Disease
Making smarter choices now is your best chance to avoid the signs and symptoms of heart disease mentioned above from becoming a reality in your life. For some people, this will require major lifestyle changes. For others, it may only require a few tweaks. The sooner you adopt these changes, though, the better it will be for your heart.
- Stop smoking. Just put them down and walk away. If you cannot do that, utilize counseling or medications designed to help you quit smoking gradually, but for good.
- Get on your feet. Ideally, you will have at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of intense physical activity weekly.
- Follow a healthy diet. Eat foods that are low in saturated fats and sodium along with a variety of fruits and vegetables for optimal results.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of heart disease is the first step. If you suspect you are experiencing these signs and symptoms, call right away to schedule an appointment with your general practitioner or a cardiologist for evaluation.