As a child I remember hearing my uncle discuss his heart attack, stating that it felt like an elephant was sitting on his chest. So for years, I thought if there was no mention of an elephant sitting on someone’s chest, they probably had indigestion and were not having a heart attack. Fast forward to the day my friend Leah’s mom had a heart attack. Leah told us that her mom had been having chest discomfort for a couple of weeks and was having numbness in her arm. The next morning I heard sirens and saw an ambulance stopping at Leah’s house. Later that day she called to say her mom did in fact have a heart attack, and that the discomfort in her chest and arm were signs she should have had checked. Her mom spent a week in the hospital and is doing great after making heart-healthy changes in not only her life but in her family’s lives as well.
Here are some signs that might surprise you of an unhealthy heart. If you are experiencing any of them, be sure to mention it to your doctor to be on the safe side.
- Snoring, sleep apnea and other breathing problems during sleep. If you snore loudly enough to keep your sleeping partner awake or to force him or her to resort to earplugs, your heart may be at risk. Restricted breathing during sleep can be the underlying cause as snoring is linked to cardiovascular disease. Sleep apnea, where breathing briefly stops during sleep, is linked with a higher risk of both cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
- Sore, swollen or bleeding gums are symptoms of periodontal disease in which exposure to bacteria causes the gums to become inflamed and pull away from the teeth, and is a possible early sign of underlying cardiovascular disease.
- Puffy or swollen legs or feet. If you notice that your feet swell enough to make your shoes tight; your ankles, wrist, or fingers are noticeably puffy; or there are deep pressure marks or indents when you take off socks or hose, you may have a problem with fluid retention. Also called edema, fluid retention can be a sign of coronary artery disease (CAD), heart failure and other forms of cardiovascular disease.
- Persistent coughing or wheezing can be a symptom of heart failure. A result of fluid accumulation in the lungs may be common in people with heart failure who cough up bloody phlegm.
- Pain in other parts of the body: In many heart attacks, pain begins in the chest and spreads to the shoulders, arms, elbows, back, neck, jaw or abdomen. But sometimes there is no chest pain, just pain in these other areas, like one or both arms, or between the shoulders. The pain might come and go.
We know our bodies best. If you don’t feel well or have any of the symptoms listed above or any that you haven’t had in the past, then it’s time to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. Don’t try to diagnose your symptoms via the Internet or by reading a medical book. Time is important, and wasting time can be dangerous.