Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States, claiming more lives than all forms of cancers combined. Yet many Americans ignore key warning signs that come from the heart — often before it’s too late.
Understanding the language of the heart can save your life, experts say.
“We are facing an epidemic of obesity and diabetes in this country that clearly contributes to our skyrocketing incidence of heart disease,” noted cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra, author of “Heath Revelations from Heaven and Earth.”
He tells Newsmax Heath poor dietary choices that lead to inflammation are a key contributing factor.
“Sixty percent of the typical American diet comes from carbohydrates. We consume about 150 pounds of sugar annually according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),” he notes. “These two factors cause inflammation and increase our risk of heart disease.”
Dr. Gabe Mirkin, author of “The Healthy Heart Miracle” tells Newsmax Health that recent research confirms that the heart may display common but often silent symptoms that warn you to take steps to halt or even reverse impending heart conditions — if you pay attention.
Here are the top eight:
Sudden fatigue with exercise. “That’s a big one,” notes Sinatra. “Some men come into my office and cannot walk 100 yards. Women have trouble carrying their laundry baskets up a flight of stairs — activities they’ve been doing easily for years. This can be a red flag that something is wrong.” If a good night’s sleep doesn’t erase the tiredness, then make an appointment to see your doctor immediately.
Sexual problems. “The inability to achieve an erection could mean that there is a blockage in the arteries leading to the penis,” notes Mirkin. “It could signal that the arteries leading to the heart may also be blocked. Impotence often precedes a heart attack by several years.”
High blood pressure. This is one of the major risk factors for heart attack, says Mirkin. If you don’t lower those numbers, it could damage your arteries and cause plaque to build up around your artery walls. “People intuitively think they are going to know if they have high blood pressure, but many times that only comes when the blood pressure is remarkably high,” says Dr. Lawrence Phillips, assistant professor of medicine and director of the Nuclear Cardiology Laboratory at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. “I encourage everyone to get their blood pressure checked because this is one of the modifiable risks.”
Persistent cough. “If you cough lying down and stop coughing when you sit up, this can mean you have congestive heart failure,” says Sinatra. Fluid starts to accumulate in your lungs when your heart isn’t beating properly which backs up your blood vessels and causes that fluid to leak into unusual places like your lungs.
Obstructive sleep apnea. If you wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air, it can increase your risk of heart attack or cause atrial fibrillation. As sleep apnea patients sleep, their oxygen levels fall and their body tells the blood vessels to tighten up in order to increase oxygen flow to the heart and brain, causing shortness of breath. “You always have to think about your heart,” says Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, attending cardiologist and director of Women’s Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Go to your doctor and get it checked.”
Swollen legs. If you notice that your ankles are getting thicker and you are having trouble slipping into your shoes, it could be a sign of heart problems. “When the heart muscle starts to fail, it cannot pump blood efficiently,” says Mirkin. Your veins get backed up and end up pushing excess fluid into your body tissues, causing body parts like your feet, legs and abdomen to swell uncharacteristically. If you feel bloated in unusual places, try pressing on your skin. If it leaves a pitted indent that means your tissues could be harboring excess fluid and you should see a doctor.
Swollen gums. “This is another biggie,” notes Sinatra. “Bleeding or swollen gums caused by inflammation can lead to increased risk of heart attack. “People with periodontal disease often suffer from high levels of inflammation.” Mirkin points out that chronic infection turns on the body’s immune system and keeps it turned on: “The cytokines you produce to kill germs can punch holes in the arteries and wreak havoc with plaque that can set you up for a heart attack.”
Palpitations. When your heart has irregular beats or beats too rapidly, it may be telling you that it’s getting weaker, says Mirkin. Arrhythmia is an irregular heart condition that may cause heart disease late on if not properly treated. It could also be a sign that you have a bad heart valve, so see your doctor to have an EKG test or a stress test to diagnose the problem.
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