Health watch: Tell-tale signs of heart trouble

Chest discomfort is an obvious sign that your heart might be in trouble. But some early symptoms of heart disease might not be quite so obvious. In fact, the signs of heart problems are so many and varied that they might often be misdiagnosed or ignored.

Bear in mind that while by themselves, the following symptoms might not indicate heart problems, having several of them is cause for alarm. Cardiologists caution that any symptom that seems to be provoked by exertion and relived by rest could be heart-related. This is especially so in those with underlying risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, tobacco use, obesity, or a family history of heart disease.

1. Easily fatigued

Are you suddenly finding the stairs to your office or apartment, which you used to climb with ease, really exhausting?  Or are you suddenly worn out by your previously invigorating morning jog? You might also be feeling fatigued all the time, even after a good night’s sleep. This might be a sign that all is not well with your ticker. This is because your heart might be working harder to pump blood, with oxygen, to the various organs.

2. Sexual problems

Having trouble rising to the occasion in the bedroom is one of warning signs that your heart is in trouble. Blocked arteries might be preventing blood from flowing properly to your sexual organs. Erectile dysfunction symptoms often precede heart problems by about two years. Early detection might therefore offer a window to stop cardiac disease in its tracks.

3. A persistent cough

If you have a cough that lasts more than two weeks and doesn’t seem to respond to medication, it might be time to have your heart checked. Fluid can collect in the lungs when one has congestive heart failure, causing a wheezing cough. This can often be mistaken for asthma or lung disease.

4. Hairless legs

Hairless legs sound heavenly, considering you won’t have to shave or go for waxing. However, suddenly losing hair on your legs can be a sign of cardiac problems. When your heart has trouble pumping blood because of narrowed arteries, the hair follicles in your legs can be starved of oxygen- leading to hair loss or slow growth.

5. Swollen legs and feet

Do your shoes suddenly feel too tight for your feet? If you aren’t pregnant and can’t pin it down to another cause, it might be a tell-tale sign of heart problems. When your heart isn’t pumping blood efficiently, the veins get backed up and the excess fluid is pushed into your feet, legs, abdomen, and even the scrotum. Although there are many possible explanations for swollen feet, make an appointment with your doctor and get checked.

6. Stomach pain

You’ve relaxing after a sumptuous meal when you start experiencing a stomach upset and heartburn. Sounds normal, right? Indigestion and acid reflux are common problems, and many people just take over-the-counter medication or ignore them altogether. However, if the tummy discomfort is accompanied by a burning sensation right below your breastbone, you might be experiencing a heart attack.

7. Neck and jaw pain

You’ll probably not associate pain in the neck or jaw with cardiac problems. But these are some of the signs that your heart needs some attention. Neck or jaw pain could be signs that your heart isn’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Women are more likely than men to complain of atypical signs of heart problems like neck, jaw, back, arm (especially the left arm), or even leg pain. If you have any unexplained aches, go see a doctor for a thorough check up.

8. Chest pain

This symptom is the one that most people immediately associate with cardiac issues. Chest pains, accompanied by feeling extremely unwell are a classic symptom of a heart attack. If the pain comes and disappears when you exert yourself, it could be angina - which should also get checked out by a cardiologist. People who have had a heart attack often describe the pain as feeling like “an elephant had sat on my chest” or “felt like a tight band around my chest”. If you experience such symptoms, call for help ASAP.

9. Irregular heartbeat

Also another classic sign of cardiac problems, heart palpitations and an irregular heartbeat is a cause of concern. Arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat condition which can lead to more serious cardiac issues if untreated. If you feel your heart jumping too fast, missing beats, and generally being erratic, see a cardiologist as soon as you can.

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