6 Signs You Have Heart Disease

(How to know if you really have it)

Heart disease means different things to different people. But no matter how you define it, heart disease is not something you want.

This term generally means there is sufficient damage to your heart or blood vessels. Types of heart disease include but are not limited to arrhythmia, atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathy and coronary artery disease.

The circulatory system at its most basic level is a pump (the heart) that transports a liquid (blood) through a set of closed walls (vessels). The heart is responsible for circulation and circulation is essential to delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Without a healthy heart, health begins to deteriorate rapidly.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States today and has been since about 1930. Interestingly, it is also one of the most preventable causes of mortality.

Symptoms depend on the type of heart disease you have. Read on below for a list of early warning signs and symptoms that you may have heart disease:

1. Sign: You’ve got abnormal heart rhythms

A heart arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat. The heartbeats may be too fast, too slow, or too irregular. Atrial fibrillation is a common heart arrhythmia condition. The symptoms you experience are usually due to the type of arrhythmia you have.  Symptoms can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Heart flutters or palpitations
  • Racing, regular heartbeat (Tachycardia)
  • Slow heart beat (Bradycardia)
  • Fast, irregular heartbeat (Atrial Fibrillation)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Chest discomfort or pain

2. Sign: You’ve got blockages in your arteries

Atherosclerosis is the most common form of artery blockage. It occurs when hard plaque builds up along the inner lining of your arteries and narrows them. Arteries are responsible for carrying oxygenated, nutrient rich blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body. If these are blocked, the body has serious trouble. When the coronary arteries that carry blood to the heart are affected it is known as Coronary Artery Disease. Blockage symptoms can vary by gender. Men are more likely to have chest pain; women are likely to experience chest discomfort along with shortness of breath, nausea or fatigue. Symptoms that result from a blockage that has occurred include:

  • Chest pain, tightness or pressure (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in legs, arms or wherever the artery is blocked
  • Numbness, weakness or a extreme feeling of coldness in legs or arms
  • Pain in neck, jaw, throat, abdomen or back
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Confusion

3. Sign: You’ve got a weak heart muscle

Cardiomyopathy, or disease of the heart muscle, occurs when the heart muscle becomes hard, rigid or enlarged (hypertrophy). Overtime, this weakens the heart muscle and impairs heart function. It also makes it harder for the heart to efficiently pump blood to the rest of the body. Heart failure usually results if left untreated. Symptoms may not become apparent until very late stage in the disease. These symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath at rest and during exertion
  • Swelling of legs and feet
  • Bloated stomach
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Angina
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

4. Sign: You’ve got damaged heart valves

Damage to one of the four heart valves can cause Valvular Heart Disease. The valves are needed to ensure that blood flows at the right rate in the right direction at the right time. If they become significantly hardened, narrowed or are unable to close properly then there are adverse effects. As the condition becomes advanced, heart failure will usually result. Symptoms can vary based on the valve affected:

  • Irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations
  • Fainting spells
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chest discomfort, pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath at rest or during activities of daily living
  • Weight gain (advanced stage)
  • Swelling of legs, ankles or feet (advanced stage)

5. Sign: You’ve got heart inflammation

Infections that affect the heart could be due to bacteria, parasites or viruses in the blood. Damaging pathogens (even oral bacteria) can travel through your blood and attach to injured areas of your heart. Inflammation can ensue. Yet, environmental factors and food-related factors can also trigger an autoimmune response that results in increased inflammation. Whatever the cause, the repercussions become very evident. Inflammation of the heart’s muscular layer (Myocarditis) or of the heart’s inner lining (Endocarditis) is highly destructive. This uncontrolled inflammatory response by the immune system can wreak havoc on the heart’s tissue. Symptoms of heart inflammation or infection can include:

  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, congestion, chills or night sweats
  • Pain in muscles or joints
  • Skin rash
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Heart murmur

6. Sign: You’ve got a congenital heart defect

Congenital heart defects, or heart problems that arose at birth, are fairly common. They are usually structural problems such as a hole or a leaky valve that can interfere with the heart’s ability to pump blood properly. Congenital Heart Disease can sometimes go undetected until adulthood and symptoms may not always be present right away. Symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath at rest or with physical activity
  • Easily fatigued with exercise
  • Swelling of hands, feet or ankles
  • Low energy
  • Irregular heart rhythms

Serious congenital defects are usually evident right after birth. Children with congenital heart defects can experience more pronounced symptoms such as:

  • Bluish discoloration of skin or fingernails due to poor circulation
  • Rapid breathing
  • Low level of feeding
  • Poor weight gain
  • Swelling of extremities

Heart disease is a deadly disease, yet it also a preventable disease. Risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, stress, environmental toxins, poor diet, and low physical activity continue to be on the rise. Yet there are things you can do to take control of your health now and reduce your risk of heart disease.

The biggest impacts are seen with diet and lifestyle modifications. It is time is to start taking care of your heart and healing your body. Diet and lifestyle prevention tips include:

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