5 Signs of an Unhealthy Heart
Heart disease causes 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S. and is the leading cause of death. One person dies every 36 seconds in America from cardiovascular disease, so it’s imperative to know the signs of an unhealthy heart.
- Unusual sensations in the chest. These can include tightness, pressure, discomfort or pain. The pain may be described as a heavy weight, stinging/burning, a sharp, stabbing feeling or just feeling odd. It may change with posture, activity, or radiate to different body areas; it may disappear quickly or come and go. The pain may also appear in your neck, throat, arms or back, as well as in your jaw.
- Shortness of breath. If you feel yourself breathing hard, having trouble catching your breath or sighing often, it may signal breathlessness. You may get winded doing activities, (such as walking up stairs, carrying a basket of laundry or playing with the kids,) which normally wouldn’t cause you to be out of breath. This may be accompanied by lightheadedness or dizziness, with or without fainting.
- Fatigue. Getting tired when you wouldn’t expect to feel that way or extreme exhaustion without a good cause are signs of a heart problem. Extreme exhaustion without a known reason is a particularly common sign of heart problems in women.
- Differences in your heartbeat. This can feel like a rapid pulse, a slower heartbeat or a change in rhythm such as fluttering or skipping a beat.
- Feeling unwell. It can include sweating or being in a cold sweat, nausea or vomiting and possible swelling in hands/feet, ankles or legs.
It’s important to recognize the many possible signs of an unhealthy heart. Heart issues portrayed in movies and TV rarely show a realistic or typical heart attack or heart problem. While someone experiencing a heart attack may clutch their chest and fall to the ground, most will not. Sometimes people will walk into their doctor’s office or urgent care clinic with generalized complaints, completely unaware they’ve had or are having a heart attack or stroke.
Learning the signs of an unhealthy heart is only the first step; it’s essential to also know your risk factors and how to reduce them. Start with a healthy eating plan, such as the Mediterranean Diet or the DASH diet, get plenty of regular exercise and reduce your stress while making sure you sleep well most nights.