Beyond Chest Pain: Strange But True Symptoms of Heart Disease
According to the CDC, heart disease encompasses several heart conditions, the most prevalent being coronary artery disease, affecting the blood flow to the heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women regardless of racial or ethnic background, causing roughly one death every 34 seconds.
It is a "silent" killer because it often goes undiagnosed until it is too late. However, with early intervention, most heart conditions are treatable. Still, you must know the symptoms, including the less obvious ones.
Unusual Symptoms of Heart Disease
When people think of heart disease, they automatically think of chest pain as the primary indicator of the condition. While chest pain is a common symptom, not every heart condition begins with a chest clutch. Most problems start small, with minor symptoms that can seem unrelated to the heart. If you are unaware of these warning signs, you may discount them as one-offs or inconsequential.
Your heart's job is to pump oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body and its vital organs. A heart affected by disease cannot pump blood as quickly or powerfully throughout the body. It can adapt slightly and temporarily by stretching the heart chambers to hold more blood, but this only weakens the heart further over time. As your organs, like the brain and lungs, cannot get enough blood, oxygen, and nutrients, they burn out faster, resulting in fatigue and weakness.
While your organs receive less blood, oxygen, and nutrients than usual because of heart disease, they continue to work. If you don't have a diagnosis, you likely continue working your typical schedule, crashing hard at night.
Unfortunately, by continuing to push your body, you cause more damage to the heart and overwork your already spent muscles and organs. Without enough blood circulating through your system, you may experience dizziness and possible confusion.
A weakened heart can also cause swelling in the abdomen and lower extremities. Blood flow slows down with heart disease because the organ is not strong enough to pump the substance as it should. Because it slows down, it causes a backup of blood in the veins, which usually settles in the lower legs, causing swelling of the ankles, feet, and calf areas.
4. Coldness in the Extremities
Patients with heart failure often discuss feeling cold in their extremities — the hands, arms, legs, and feet. While it seems strange that a heart condition can affect the body's temperature, when the heart cannot pump enough blood to the entire body, it takes action by diverting blood flow to critical organs, such as the brain, and away from your extremities. With less blood circulating through your legs, feet, hands, and arms, they naturally become colder.
5. Persistent Cough
People typically think of a cough as a respiratory symptom that indicates a cold or virus, but it can also be a sign of heart disease. Heart failure causes fluid retention, resulting in fluid in the lungs and triggering a persistent cough.
Importance of Early Detection
Heart disease represents various life-threatening conditions, and the warning signs are not always obvious. If you experience any of the above symptoms or worry about the possibility of developing the disease, contact your doctor. Early detection is vital for improving outcomes.