Six surprising signs of heart disease

When the heart and arteries begin to fail, symptoms appear in seemingly unrelated parts of the body. Photo / Getty
When the heart and arteries begin to fail, symptoms appear in seemingly unrelated parts of the body. Photo / Getty

They're often ignored ailments, but a cardiologist has revealed the minor symptoms linked to the world's biggest killer: heart disease.

Indigestion, snoring and bleeding gums are considered minor health problems by most of us, so much so that we tend to ignore them.

But according to a Texas cardiologist, these seemingly insignificant issues are actually common symptoms of heart disease. When the heart and arteries begin to fail, symptoms appear in otherwise unrelated parts of the body.

From the Texas A&M Health Science Centre, Dr John Erwin explains six of the most common, and surprising, symptoms that people need to be aware of.

1. Sexual disfunction

Most of us consider sexual dysfunction to be a problem with reproductive organs, or the brain.

However, especially for men, sexual dysfunction is a common symptom of arterial disease.

A build up of plaque in the arteries contributes to trouble achieving or maintaining an erection.

For women, a decline in libido can be a sign of post-menopause. Women who are in a post-menopausal state rapidly increase their risk factors for developing heart disease.

According to Dr Erwin, "While menopause doesn't cause cardiovascular diseases, certain heart-health risks - like changes in blood pressure and cholesterol levels - begin around the time of menopause."

2. Snoring or sleep apnea

Snoring is a common sign of sleep apnea, which occurs when a person's sleep is interrupted by periods of failure to breathe. It's associated with a number of physiological changes that increase the risk of both heart attack and stroke, explains Dr Erwin.

3. Bleeding, painful or swollen gums

A link between gum problems and heart disease sounds strange, but unhealthy guns are a symptom of periodontitis, a serious gum infection that can lead to inflammation across the body.

Over-activity in inflammatory pathways is a strong risk factor in the development of cardiovascular disease and occurrence of heart attacks.

4. Shoulder or neck pain

For those who survive a heart attack, many will describe the ordeal as feeling like an elephant is sitting on their chest. They may also describe a sensation of "squeezing" in their arms.

But for some, pain or a sense of pressure or aching in their neck, jaw or shoulders may be all they feel during a heart attack.

5. Swollen feet and legs

Puffy feet and legs can be caused by myriad reasons including hot summer temperatures. But in some cases, swollen lower limbs can be a marker of congestive heart failure.

This is often the case when a person also has shortness of breath with activity or when trying to sleep.

6. Indigestion or heartburn

While these are common ailments, they're not often serious. But in some cases, those burning or aching sensations in the upper abdomen can be a sign of heart pain or a heart attack.

When a person suffering indigestion or heartburn is also experiencing nausea, sweating, shortness of breath or feels light headed, they are advised to seek medical attention.

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