Cardiovascular diseases are among the deadliest, and they are one of the main causes of death in the United States. Your heart might cause problems if your diet is unhealthy, or if you are used to the sedentary lifestyle. It is no surprise that heart problems cause a lot of death each year, as work culture these days promote unhealthy snacking and sitting on an office chair for extended periods of time.
You can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by cleaning up your diet and exercising. Nonetheless, some damage to your heart might have already be done and you might be at high risk for heart disease. Fortunately, there are five signs which usually indicate that your heart is not working properly and that you should have a checkup for your heart.
1. Arm Pain
Heart problems might produce arm pain by pressuring your spine, which is full of nerves. It results in arm pain, and for yet unknown reasons, in most cases, men experience pain in their left arms, while women might suffer from both of their arms. Strange pain in the elbow might indicate a potential heart attack. These symptoms must not be ignored and medical attention as soon as possible is advised.
2. Jaw Pain or Coughing that won’t quit
It is common that jaw, throat pain, and coughing is a result of a sinus problem or a common cold. Unfortunately, in some cases, it might indicate that your heart is in huge danger, especially if you experience pressure or pain in your chest, which continues up into your jaw or throat. If you feel these symptoms at the same time, it is important to quickly get medical attention, as in most cases these are signs of a heart attack.
3. High Levels of Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety and daily stress make a negative impact on your heart health. People who are suffering from anxiety put their hearts at a higher strain than people who do not experience stress. A constant state of worry, stress, and anxiety wears the heart down bit by bit, and after prolonged periods of such a state, your heart might be at risk of various diseases. Eliminating stress for your life will reduce the risk, but if you were prone to anxiety for much of your life, it is important to have a checkup to ensure whether the damage was not done already.
4. Swollen Feet, Ankles, and Legs
This condition is called peripheral edema. It happens when your heart has problems properly pumping the blood around your body, or when your blood vessels are stuffed with cholesterol. As a result, some of the blood leaks out and accumulated blood produces swelling. It usually happens in the lower parts of your body, such as feet, ankles, and legs.
5. Abdominal Pain and Nausea
Poor blood circulation might produce liquid accumulation around your liver, which in turn makes you nauseous and might even cause stomachache. Research shows that women are more likely to experience this exact symptom as a sign of heart problems, but men can also feel these uncomfortable effects. It is important to understand that you might feel nausea and stomachache for a number of different reasons, but if you experience these symptoms in addition to the others on this list, you should hurry up and get a professional checkup.
6. Strange Spots or Skin Rashes
Recent research has shown that painful rashes or skin conditions like shingles and eczema might be an indicator that you are at a high risk of heart disease. One specific study conducted by Dr. Sinead Langan involved over 385,000 adults of an average age of 43. The results showed that people with severe cases of eczema were 20% more likely to have a stroke.
7. Losing consciousness or fainting
Feeling lightheaded and losing consciousness is very common among heart patients. When the heart is not pumping blood well it is because the blood flow is blocked from a clogged artery or the narrowing of a valve. If you ever feel shortness of breath and you faint for a short period of time, call a doctor immediately and have your heart checked.
8. Skin Loses Color
Your skin becoming paler than usual, or even attaining a bluish tint is not the most common symptom of potential heart problems. Nonetheless, if you notice your skin losing or changing in color it is recommended to have a checkup. It might indicate that the blood is not circulating around your body properly and it causes your skin color to change.
Tips for Better Heart Health
Your heart works hard for you nonstop for your whole life. So show it some TLC.
Making small changes in your habits can make a real difference to your ticker.
“It’s like finding the fountain of youth,” says Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “People who follow these steps not only live longer, but they also spend a lot more time healthy, without cardiovascular disease.”
You don’t have to work on all 10 steps at once. Even if you improve just one or two of these areas, you can make yourself less likely to get heart disease. Of course, the more tips on this list you follow, the better. So let’s get started.
1. Aim for lucky number seven:
The next time you’re tempted to stay up later than you should, remember how comfy that pillow will feel and how good a full night’s sleep is for your heart.
In one study, young and middle-age adults who slept 7 hours a night had less calcium in their arteries (an early sign of heart disease) than those who slept 5 hours or less or those who slept 9 hours or more.
The type of shut-eye they got was important, too. Adults who said they got good-quality sleep also had healthier arteries than those who didn’t sleep soundly.
If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, or if you don’t feel refreshed after a full night in bed, talk to your doctor about what changes you can make to help.
2. Keep the pressure off:
That cuff squeezing your arm at every doctor’s visit is important. It measures the amount of pressure flowing through your arteries with every heartbeat.
If your blood pressure gets too high, the extra force can damage artery walls and create scar tissue. That makes it harder for blood and oxygen to get to and from your heart. The heart has to pump harder and gets worn out faster. If it can’t get enough oxygen, parts can start to die.
Get your blood pressure checked every 3-5 years if you’re 18-39. If you’re 40 or older, or if you have high blood pressure, check it every year.
Cut back on salt, stop drinking alcohol, favor healthy eating habits (think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein) manage your stress, and work out. These changes are often enough to bring your blood pressure back down into the normal range. If not, your doctor might recommend you also take medication.
3. Slash saturated fats:
To help your heart’s arteries, cut down on saturated fats, which are mainly found in meat and full-fat dairy products. Choose leaner cuts and reduced-fat options.
Also, totally quit trans fats, which are found in some processed foods. They drive up your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol level. Check ingredient lists for anything that says “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” — those are trans fats.
If it’s been 5 or more years since your last cholesterol blood test, you’re probably due for one.
4. Find out if you have diabetes:
Millions of people don’t know that they have this condition. That’s risky because over time, high blood sugar damages arteries and makes heart disease more likely.
Your doctor should test your blood sugar if you are 45 or older, if you are pregnant, or if you’re overweight and have other risk factors for diabetes.
If you find out that you have diabetes, work with your doctor on your lifestyle (diet and exercise) and any medicine that you may need.
If you have borderline high blood sugar, also called prediabetes, take action now to turn things around.
One simple swap is to trade processed carbs (like white rice) for fiber-rich whole grains (like brown rice). Every positive change you make in what you eat and how active you are will help. Over time, you’ll be able to do more.
5. Move more:
To keep it simple, you can aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of moderate exercise. That includes any activity that gets you moving around and breaking a slight sweat.
“If you’re doing nothing, do something. And if you’re doing something, do more,” Lloyd-Jones says.
Also, pay attention to how much time you spend seated, whether it’s at work, in your car, or on your couch at home. You want to cut that time down.
“We now know that even if you exercise for 30 minutes a day, being sedentary for the other 23 1/2 hours is really bad for your heart,” says Monika Sanghavi, MD, assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Break up long periods of sitting, and stand or walk while doing things like talking on the phone or watching TV.
6. Clean up:
Your heart works best when it runs on clean fuel. That means lots of whole, plant-based foods (like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) and fewer refined or processed foods (like white bread, pasta, crackers, and cookies).
It’s time-tested wisdom. “The latest fads get overplayed by the media. But the core of what makes a heart-healthy eating pattern hasn’t changed for decades,” Lloyd-Jones says.
One of the fastest ways to clean up your diet is to cut out sugary beverages like soda and fruit juice, which lacks the fiber that’s in actual fruit.
“We drink way too many of our calories,” Sanghavi says. “And those calories don’t fill us up the way real food does, so we have them in addition to everything else we’re eating, with no nutritional benefit.”
7. Think beyond the scale:
Ask your doctor if your weight is OK. If you have some pounds to lose, you’ll probably want to change your eating habits and be more active. But there’s more to it than that.
For many people, “emotional eating” is where they find comfort and stress relief, and how they celebrate. So if it’s hard to change those patterns, it can help to talk with a counselor to find other ways to handle those situations.
8. Ditch the cigarettes, real and electronic:
Smoking and secondhand smoke are bad for your heart. If you smoke, quit, and don’t spend time around others who smoke as well.
E-cigarettes are popular, but they’re not completely problem-free. “They don’t contain the harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke, and they can help some people wean themselves off of smoking,” Lloyd-Jones says. “But they still do contain nicotine, so your goal should be to quit completely, not just switch to a less toxic version.”
9. Do more of what you love:
“I tell my patients that managing stress in a healthy way, whether it’s meditation, yoga, or exercise, is really important,” Sanghavi says.
Make it a point, too, to spend time with people you’re close to. Talk, laugh, confide, and enjoy each other. It’s good for your emotional health and your heart.
10. Celebrate every step:
Making changes like these takes time and effort. Think progress, not perfection. And reward yourself for every positive step you take. Ask your friends and family to support you and join in, too. Your heart’s future will be better for it!
Cardiovascular problems can be avoided or partially dealt with by having a healthy lifestyle. A nutritious diet and daily physical activity ensure that the risk of you getting heart problems is reduced. Clean diet controls your cholesterol levels, which makes your blood vessels suited for proper blood circulation. Exercise makes your heart stronger and better at pumping the blood.
Unfortunately, if you are used to an unhealthy lifestyle, your heart might already experience problems and work not as intended, which can later result in a heart attack or other problems. If you are experiencing at least one sign of this list, it might indicate that it is time for you to have an appointment with your doctor, to check up on your heart health.