Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States. This disease often goes unnoticed until it’s too late, even though there are actually several symptoms that show up long before a heart attack or stroke.
Here is a list of heart disease symptoms that you want to watch out for, along with some very surprising yet potentially deadly signs (starting on page 9).
1. Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath is a bad sign in any situation. | iStock.com/OcusFocus
Your heart and lungs are responsible for bringing in oxygen and transporting it to all areas of your body. If you’re having trouble breathing, it signals that either the heart or lungs could be having a serious problem. Typically, shortness of breath that lasts for a few weeks or more is a sign of an underlying heart condition.
Next: This is the most common sign of heart disease.
2. Chest pain
Chest pain is the most common symptom of heart problems. | iStock.com/mheim3011
One of the most common signs of heart disease is chest pain. Chest pain happens when your heart is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood, and it’s also known as angina. It’s one of the main symptoms of heart disease and often occurs because an artery is partially blocked, causing decreased blood flow.
Next: This occurs with poor circulation.
Numbness in your extremities can be a sign of serious problems. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Numbness or tingling in your arms or legs can be a sign of poor circulation. Poor circulation could mean narrowed blood vessels and heart disease. Legs that are pale and cool to the touch could also be a sign of narrowed blood vessels and poor circulation and is sometimes accompanied by pain during exercise.
Next: Tightness is also a sign something is wrong.
4. Chest tightness or pressure
Pressure or tightness is a symptom of heart disease. | TeoLazarev/iStock/Getty Images
If your body is suffering from heart disease, you might feel tightness or pressure in your chest. If it feels like your chest is being squeezed (which can feel different from dull chest pain), it’s one of the most common signs that something is wrong with your heart. It’s important to see your doctor right away; you might also notice tightness in your lungs.
Next: Your heart’s rhythm can say a lot.
5. Racing or slow heartbeat
Irregular heartbeat is a sign that something is wrong. | Evryka23/iStock/Getty Images
A normal heartbeat is anywhere from 60 to 100 beats per minute. But if the heartbeat is too slow, it can signal a problem with the heart’s electrical system. On the other hand, a heart rate that is too quick can mean that the heart is working harder to try and circulate blood throughout the body. This usually happens when there is some sort of blockage.
Next: This feeling is a common side effect of heart disease.
Dizziness is a sign of poor circulation. | iStock.com/ AntonioGuillem
Dizziness is another symptom of poor blood circulation. Cardiomyopathy and heart arrhythmia are commonly associated with dizziness. But dizziness can be a cause of many health problems, so also check for other heart disease symptoms. If you feel lightheaded, always try to lie down or put your head between your knees to avoid passing out.
Next: This feeling is also common with heart disease.
With a weak heart muscle, it’s difficult for blood to be efficiently pumped throughout the body. When that happens, the heart diverts blood to more important areas, like the brain, instead of less important areas, such as muscles. This can lead to fatigue.
Next: If this happens during physical activity, there could be a problem.
8. Exhaustion or chest pain during exercise
Exhaustion during workouts could be heart-related. | Liderina/iStock/Getty Images
If your heart doesn’t work well during physical activity, it could mean you have stable angina. Stable angina typically occurs only when your heart works harder than normal. This is different from unstable angina, which can occur at any time. If you notice chest pain during exercise or you’re quickly exhausted, it could be a sign that something is causing a blockage in your heart.
Next: Pain in this area can mean heart disease.
9. Jaw pain
Jaw pain may not always mean a visit with the dentist. | Sam Edwards/Getty Images
Sometimes heart pain can disguise itself as jaw pain. That’s because the pain from your heart can actually spread to different areas due to the nerves being so close together. Your brain might be signaling pain in the heart, but it shows up as pain in the jaw, neck, or back. It might be a heart condition if the pain can’t be pinpointed to one muscle, so it’s important to see a doctor.
Next: Here are some bizarre signs of heart disease you’ve probably never heard of.
10. Creased earlobes
If you notice creases in your earlobes, you might want to visit a cardiologist. | studiokovac/iStock/Getty Images
One unsuspecting cause of heart disease is something known as Frank’s Sign. It is a term used to describe earlobes with a diagonal crease going from one side of the earlobe to another. The line usually runs at a 45-degree angle. It is thought to occur due to the loss of vascular fibers in that area when someone has heart disease. Several studies have shown a connection between the two, but not enough evidence has been found to prove it completely true. But if you notice those creases, it’s better to be safe and get checked out.
Next: These unsuspecting bumps are harmless on their own but can signal a big problem.
11. Fatty bumps
Fatty deposits around your elbow could be due to heart disease. | Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/ iStock/Getty Images Plus
Yellow, fatty bumps, which are called xanthomas, are another sign of heart disease that you might be unaware of. They usually appear on the elbows, knees, buttocks, and sometimes the eyelids. They can result from having extremely high cholesterol that the body then needs to put somewhere. The body creates fatty deposits in order to store the cholesterol, which is how the xanthomas are formed. If your cholesterol is too high, it could lead to serious heart problems.
Next: If your fingernails look like this, you should see a doctor.
12. Clubbed fingernails
Your nails could say a lot about your heart health. | MichalLudwiczak/iStock/Getty Images
Clubbed fingernails, also known as digital clubbing, can occur when oxygen is not reaching the fingers the way it should be. As a result, more tissue is produced as the fingers try to justify the lack of oxygen. When more tissue is produced, the nails can start to grow differently. Clubbed fingernails are typically painless, but they can definitely signal a serious heart problem. Clubbed fingernails can also signal many other types of disease.
Next: A ring around this is an atypical sign of heart disease.
13. Halo eyes
Are your eyes a window into your heart health? | Shironosovz/Getty Images
If you ever notice a strange looking ring around your cornea, it could be a sign of heart disease. Sometimes, when cholesterol and triglyceride levels are too high, a grey-colored ring forms around the cornea as a result. It can happen at any age, but it’s more common when you’re under 60. Regardless, any eye changes could be a sign of health problems, so it’s always best to get it checked out.
Next: Any problems here can mean a problem with your heart.
14. Gum and tooth problems
Bacteria in your mouth can get to other parts of your body. | iStock.com
Your mouth is filled with bacteria. Sometimes, that bacteria can get into your bloodstream and affect your heart. Any sign of something wrong in the mouth could mean that there’s a bigger problem. If you notice any gum inflammation or begin losing teeth, it’s important to see a doctor to get to the root of the problem. In some cases, you might need to take medication before having a regular dental checkup.
Next: This discoloration is a sign of a congenital heart defect.
15. Blue lips
If your lips are turning blue, youry may have a bigger problem. | petrunjela/Getty Images
Blue lips are a common sign of heart disease that occurs at birth, or congenital heart disease. It has to do with blood not properly flowing through the heart and getting the amount of oxygen that it needs before leaving to go to the rest of the body. If the valves in the heart are not working properly, the blood might not have enough oxygen, which can lead to cyanosis. Cyanosis refers to mucous membranes and skin turning a bluish color.
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