Have You Ever Experienced These 5 Subtle Symptoms Of Heart Disease?
It isn’t always as obvious as a heart attack.
By Ashley Mateo
Here are five symptoms of heart disease that you shouldn’t shrug off.
SHORTNESS OF BREATH
Sometimes, getting short of breath at the top of the stairs is a sign that you need to up your workouts or take your allergy meds. Other times, it’s a sign of heart disease, says Steinbaum. “It’s all about oxygen delivery,” she says, explaining that, in people with heart disease, the heart struggles to get oxygen where it needs to go throughout the body. The result: you feel like you can’t ever quite catch your breath.
As heart disease progresses, breathing problems can worsen to the point that lying flat in bed isn’t even an option; it too severely limits what air flow they do have, she says. If you struggle with shortness or breath that isn’t treated with allergy medications or other doctor-recommended measures, it’s time for a second opinion.
A HEAVY CHEST
Along with shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, also known as angina, is one of the most common heart disease symptoms, says Steinbaum. This is the ache of your heart not getting enough oxygen.
It may feel like a squeezing sensation or pressure on top of your chest; in some women, it can feel like indigestion. If you experience any of these feelings and there’s no other explanation, you should head straight to the doctor or even the emergency room, she says.
RANDOM BODY ACHES
Still, some women with heart disease don’t experience pain in their chests at all. Instead, they experience pain in their abdomens. Others feel it in their jaw or even their neck, says Steinbaum.
It’s a non-specific feeling that women who tend to be used to pain (thank you, period cramps) can easily brush off. “But if you know what you can do on a normal day, and all of a sudden whatever the symptom may be is making your normal activities more challenging, you’ve got to think of your heart and head to the doctor immediately,” she says.
LOSS OF FEELING IN THE ARMS AND LEGS
Along with pain or coldness, numbness and weakness in the arms or legs can be a sign that your extremities aren’t getting the flow of blood and oxygen that they need, says Steinbaum. Over time, a lack of blood flow can result in nerve damage, and the effects of nerve damage are wide-ranging. Basically anything you do (or don’t) feel in your arms and legs is related to nerve health.
“If there’s no other reason for the pain or sensation, you have to think heart,” she says. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Have you ever felt your heart flutter? That’s a heart palpitation, or an arrhythmia. “Your heart is beating too quickly or irregularly,” says Steinbaum. “You can feel it. It’s that simple.”
In people with heart disease, palpitations can point to issues with the heart’s valves or even its electric system. However, palpitations are not always a symptom of heart disease. “I often hear people saying they will happen to them right before they go to sleep, and they won’t last long. That’s often due to drinking too much caffeine or wine, being dehydrated, or even stress,” she says.
However, if the palpitations last for more than a few minutes, or they are accompanied by other heart disease symptoms on this list, you should immediately see a doctor, she says.
This post was originally published in Women’s Health Magazine on January 8, 2018.