Could Your Heart Be Sending Out Signals?
Unfortunately, not everybody has a tell-tale heart. Sometimes, when trouble is brewing within your chest, the signs can be surprisingly subtle. The heart might send an SOS with barely a whisper or offer clues that it’s pumping less effectively in areas of the body where you don’t expect them.
It’s important to be vigilant for symptoms of cardiovascular disease. But if your heart was on the decline would you know the warning signs? From the subtle to the serious, let’s take a look at some of the ways your body could be sounding the heart health alarm.
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
Chest pain is a classic sign of heart trouble. If the pain comes on suddenly, especially if it’s accompanied by dizziness, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath, it’s time to call 911. You could be having a heart attack and you don’t want to hesitate.
While this sensation may be felt as a sharp or stabbing pain, it can also present as a tightness or pressure. Many people have described the feeling of a heavy weight on their chest. However it presents, any sudden and overwhelming feeling in your chest is cause for alarm. Be sure to seek medical attention right away.
Jaw and Neck Pain
It’s important to note that chest pain doesn’t always center on the heart. It’s common for pain to radiate to the jaw and neck or even into your back or arms. While pain in the center of the chest is the most common sign of heart trouble for both men and women, women are more likely to experience radiating pain signals than men (although men experience them too).
Before a full-blown heart attack occurs, the heart might send warning signs in the form of more subtle pain for months or even years. If you have pain in your upper body that comes on with exertion and subsides with rest, it could be an indication there’s an issue with your heart. On the other hand, some heart attacks happen without any of these warnings, so don’t assume your pain is innocuous just because it’s happening for the first time.
Fatigue and/or Shortness of Breath
Your heart is a pump. When it isn’t functioning properly, less blood reaches your lungs and muscles, causing you to become tired and out of breath more easily. We all get breathless after a set of jump squats or a sprint, but if you find that your threshold is noticeably diminished—for example, becoming very tired or out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs or carrying groceries—it’s time to talk to your doctor. Additionally, if you experience breathlessness while lying down or otherwise at rest, it’s definitely a sign to get checked out.
Strange Sensations or Swelling in Your Limbs
If your blood vessels have become narrowed due to a buildup of fatty deposits, it can reduce the circulation of blood to your arms and legs. When this happens, you might experience pain, numbness, weakness, or coldness in your limbs. Much like chest pain, if the sensation worsens with exertion and subsides upon rest, it may be of particular concern. But tell your doctor about your symptoms no matter what.
On the flip side, when blood flow slows down, the blood returning to the heart can get backed up, causing a build-up of fluid in the tissues. If you have unexplained swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs it could be a warning sign of heart failure, so let your doctor know.
If your heartbeat feels irregular or rapid, it’s not necessarily a reason to be concerned. That fluttery feeling could be caused by anxiety, dehydration, or even too much caffeine. However, it could also be a sign that your heart is attempting to play “catch up” after falling behind. Take note of what else is going on when you feel this sensation. If your heartbeat suddenly becomes rapid while you’re at rest or has frequent bouts at an oddly irregular pace, it could indicate that your heart is struggling. Tell your doctor about your symptoms.
We all sweat, but usually we can attribute it to the blazing sun or a tough workout. Sweating is a normal, healthy function that helps the body cool itself down. However, if you break out into a cold sweat for no apparent reason, it could be a sign of a heart attack, especially if it is accompanied by any of the other symptoms mentioned here. If unexplained sweating starts suddenly and you don’t feel right, call 911 right away.
A little snoring here and there is totally normal. However, if you’re regularly waking up your whole household or making choking or gasping noises in your sleep, it could be a sign of sleep apnea—a condition where you stop breathing for brief moments throughout the night. According to John Hopkins Medicine, sleep apnea is associated with high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack. If you frequently wake up short of breath or your loved ones have resorted to sleeping with pillows over their heads, it’s a good idea to schedule a checkup.
Most of the time, trouble achieving or maintaining an erection is a problem with circulation or blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, erectile dysfunction could be an early warning sign of heart disease. While there may be other factors at play, your doctor should investigate the possibility of heart issues before recommending treatment.
Listen to Your Heart
Your heart sometimes has a roundabout way of speaking up, so it’s important to know what you’re listening for. The earlier you detect the warning signs of heart disease, the easier it will be to treat. If any symptom or sensation is causing you concern, talk to your doctor, especially if you have a family history of heart disease, smoke, or have other underlying risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States year after year, but experts believe it is about 80% preventable. There are lifestyle changes, treatments, and medications that can help.
We’re Here to Offer Steady Support
If you and your doctor decide to explore treatment options for heart disease, know that our team will be standing by. Our pharmacies are stocked with the full assortment of heart health medications your doctor might prescribe and our cardiology specialists are available to answer your questions with a simple call or in-app message. We offer same-day delivery on all your medications so you don’t have to miss a beat while you ensure that your heart stays steady and strong.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.