Cardiovascular disease – which is often referred to as heart disease – is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in every 4 deaths that occur in the U.S. each year is caused by heart disease. That equals out to about one person per minute dying of a cardiovascular disease-related event.
This deadly disease is a serious problem in the U.S., making it an important condition to know more about. One of the best ways to prevent death from cardiovascular disease is to recognize the signs that indicate that you may be suffering from this condition. The following are some of the key signs which may indicate that you have cardiovascular disease. If you are experiencing one or more of the signs listed below, you should make an appointment with your physician to discuss your risks and possible testing for cardiovascular disease.
1. Risk Factors For Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is closely associated with certain health risks. In fact, 9 out of 10 people with cardiovascular disease have at least one of the risk factors listed below. The following health conditions and lifestyle choices indicate a higher risk of cardiovascular disease:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Obesity or being overweight
- Lack of physical activity
- Poor diet
- Smoking cigarettes
- Drinking alcohol
(For tips on how to kick the habit, see Tips On How To Quit Smoking As Soon As Possible.)
2. Chest Pain
If you feel a pain or tightness in your chest, it may be a sign that your blood vessels are narrowed, blocked or stiffened. This can prevent your heart (along with other parts of the body) from getting enough blood and may lead to heart attack, stroke, angina or heart failure. Chest pain may also occur as a sign of an abnormal heartbeat (also called heart arrhythmia) or valvular heart disease, each of which can also indicate that a person has cardiovascular disease.
3. Shortness Of Breath
This is another sign that you may have heart disease related to a problem with narrow, blocked or stiffened blood vessels. Heart arrhythmia is another cause of shortness of breath and an indicator that you may have cardiovascular disease. It can also be related to valvular heart disease.
4. Pain Or Numbness In Your Legs Or Arms
The blood vessels in your arms and legs are often affected by cardiovascular disease, causing you to feel pain or numbness in these areas. In some cases, the legs, hands, feet or arms affected may also feel cold or weak due to this problem with the blood vessels.
(To learn more about cold feet, read Cold Feet Symptoms.)
5. Dizziness, Lightheadedness Or Fainting
Having these symptoms may be related to having an abnormal heartbeat. These possible signs of cardiovascular disease may also be caused by having thick and stiff heart muscles (known as cardiomyopathy) or valvular heart disease, both of which may cause heart disease.
6. Slow Or Fast Heartbeat
A slow heartbeat (known as bradycardia) or racing heartbeat (known as tachycardia) are both possible signs that an individual may have cardiovascular disease. This may also be accompanied by a fluttering feeling in the chest. This symptom may also be caused by having cardiomyopathy or valvular heart disease.
7. Swelling In The Legs, Ankles And Feet
This sign of heart disease is caused by cardiomyopathy. By the time symptoms like this appear, the cardiomyopathy has usually worsened past the beginning stages of the condition.
8. Bloating Of The Abdomen
People who suffer from cardiomyopathy, a cause of heart disease, may exhibit this symptom. The bloating occurs from a build-up of fluid in the abdominal area. Like other symptoms of cardiomyopathy, this symptom usually does not appear until the condition has worsened.
9. Having A Heart Infection
There are several different types of heart infections, each of which may cause heart disease. These infections can affect either the tissue surrounding the heart (pericarditis), the middle layer of the walls of the heart (myocarditis) or the inner membrane that separates chambers and valves in your heart (endocarditis). These infections are often associated with symptoms like fever, shortness of breath, coughing, skin rashes, weakness and swelling in the legs or abdomen.
10. Having A Heart Defect
Individuals with serious congenital heart defects can get heart disease from those defects. A newborn with this type of defect may experience symptoms like shortness of breath, pale gray or bluish skin or swelling in the legs, in the abdomen or around the eyes. Signs of a congenital heart defect which don’t appear until later in life include shortness of breath and quick fatigue while exercising, swelling in the hands, ankles or feet and built-up fluid in the lungs or heart.
If you feel like you are suffering from one or more of the following signs or symptoms, schedule a check-up with your physician to find out if you are suffering or at risk of cardiovascular disease.