Heart problems are the leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, they claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Heart attacks, heart failure, coronary artery disease and strokes are some of the life-threatening issues and diseases that can occur because of an unhealthy heart.
Chest pain accounts for more than 7 million annual visits to emergency departments in the United States, making it the second most common complaint (behind stomach pain and cramps). There are many warning signs of an unhealthy heart that can easily be dismissed as a simple inconvenience or nonserious medical issue. While chest pain can be caused by a pulled chest muscle or inflammation, if you experience sudden chest pain that is causing you concern, seek urgent medical care to rule out a serious condition.
Signs of heart problems
Not all heart problems come with clear warning signs; this is especially true if you’re overweight, or have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. So if you’re unsure, get it checked out.
If you experience a combination of any of the following symptoms, visit your local urgent care or dial 911 as soon as possible to get the care you need:
- Aching in the shoulder or chest
Chest pain, especially if it is localized on the left side, is a well-known sign of a potential impending heart attack. This pain is caused when heart muscle cells die and can lead to a tightness or pain that extends from the upper torso to the shoulder.
- Shortness of breath and extreme fatigue
According to the American Heart Association, shortness of breath is an indicator of heart failure. This includes breathlessness during activity, while at rest or while sleeping. This also includes the feeling of fatigue after a full night of rest. When your heart is unhealthy, blood vessels can get backed up and spread blood to places where it shouldn’t be, like the lungs. This can cause a shortness of breath.
- Digestive concerns
Stomach pain and other gastrointestinal issues can indicate a heart condition, like heart disease. Typically, these symptoms occur because the heart is having difficulty pumping blood throughout the body.
- Sleep apnea, snoring or waking in the night
Snoring and sleep problems like insomnia and sleep apnea have been directly linked to heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. Sleep apnea is a disorder that interrupts your breathing while you sleep. These episodes can leave you gasping for air and can be hard on your heart. Treating sleep apnea can improve blood pressure levels and increase blood flow and oxygen to the heart.
- Swelling in the legs and feet
Similar to the pain in the chest and torso, swelling in the legs and feet are caused by improper blood flow to the heart. When blood isn’t flowing out as it should, it isn’t flowing back properly either, which can lead to blood clots and heart failure.
- Recent hair loss on your legs
Hairless legs could mean your legs lack the oxygen and nutrients they need due to narrowed arteries and reduced blood flow, a condition known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
- Heart rhythm and rate changes
An irregular heartbeat, known as arrhythmias, means your heart isn’t pumping blood at its normal rhythm. While you can be relatively healthy with an irregular heartbeat, it can be an indication of heart failure or an impending heart attack.
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
This can be a sign that blood flow to the brain is restricted, which is a leading cause of for strokes and heart attacks. Feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness can also be a sign of a sudden drop in blood pressure.
- Persistent cough
A persistent cough isn’t always a sign your heart has a problem because it is a common symptom of many respiratory illnesses like the common cold, flu and bronchitis. A never-ending cough, however, could be a warning sign that fluid Is building up in your lungs, which is a symptom of congestive heart failure.
- Sore gums and jaw or other mouth problems
There is a significant link between the gum disease gingivitis and heart problems. The gums are very vascular, so any injury or wound to the mouth can easily introduce bacteria into the bloodstream and therefore your heart. Pain that goes from the heart to the jaw area is a common sign of heart attack, especially in women.
- Sexual problems
While sexual problems could be a result of anxiety, depression or stress, erectile dysfunction (ED) is a classic sign of heart trouble. ED can stem from blocked arteries, which prevent blood from flowing properly to your penis.
If you or a loved one is struggling with any signs or symptoms of heart problems, it’s time to see a doctor. Coastal Urgent Care of Baton Rouge is open for walk-in appointments 7 days a week from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. We have an onsite EKG to monitor the activity of your heart quickly and painlessly. This enables our experienced doctors to diagnose and treat your conditions quickly, safely and effectively.