5 Signs You May Have Heart Disease And Not Know It

Your heart is a vital organ that keeps your body functioning. Unfortunately, many people don't treat it that way. They may not realize that their daily habits and lifestyle can overwork and damage their hearts.

While many people may not believe that heart disease is their biggest health threat, statistics say otherwise. As heart disease continues to rank as the country’s most serious health problem, prevention and early detection have never been more important.

“One of the best ways to prevent heart disease is to learn more about your risk factors,” says Martin Siegfried, MD, a cardiologist with Gwinnett Medical Group. “While there are some that are out of your control, such as age, gender and family history,” adds Dr. Siegfried, “there are many risk factors you can control. These include: smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and inactive lifestyle.”

Symptoms that go unnoticed

Because heart disease develops gradually, early signs are not limited to the heart. In fact, early symptoms are most often the result of clogged arteries somewhere else in the body.

“While blockages may occur in any artery of the body,” notes Dr. Siegfried,
“oftentimes finding blockages in non-heart arteries is highly suggestive that heart problems are also present.”

Below are some of the most common signs of clogged arteries. Keep in mind, though, that these symptoms are not always the result of heart disease or clogged arteries. If you notice any one or more of these symptoms, be sure to see your doctor.

   1. Fatigue and dizziness. If you feel fatigued, dizzy or light-headed frequently, it could be the result of clogged arteries. Blockages can reduce oxygen and blood flow.

   2. Shortness of breath. This symptom stands out especially if you are active and are still struggling to catch your breath. Reduced blood flow can cause shortness of breath.

   3. Painful walking. When your leg and hip muscles frequently cramp as a result of walking or moving, this could be a sign of a peripheral arterial disease (PAD), or clogged arteries in your legs. If you do have PAD, you are more likely to have a blockage in one of your heart arteries.

   4. Erectile dysfunction. Clogged arteries in the pelvis area can make it difficult for men to achieve an erection.

   5. Cold or numb hands and feet. When the arteries of the arms and legs become clogged, extremities like your hands and feet are affected. They can feel painful, cold or even numb. If only one limb is consistently affected, it makes the diagnosis more certain.

It’s never too late

“While heart disease is a very serious condition, it’s important to remember that making heart healthy choices—even later in life—will help to prevent heart disease,” emphasizes Dr. Siegfried. In fact, some research shows that getting serious about heart health can actually reverse damage.

Some of the most important lifestyle changes you can make include:

Stop smoking. It can do serious damage to blood vessels, not to mention to your entire body.

Eat a healthy diet. Experts don’t recommend any one type of eating pattern. Instead eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry and nuts. Cut back on sugary foods like soda and on red meat.

Find time for exercise. Exercise comes in all shapes and sizes, whether it’s walking, bicycling or playing basketball, it will support healthy muscles, especially your heart. Aim for at least 2.5 hours a week.

Watch how much alcohol you drink. Drinking too much can raise your blood pressure.

Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight puts you at risk for heart problems. By incorporating a healthy diet and time for exercise, your weight is more likely to remain balanced and healthy.

Checkyour heart health. Working with your doctor is one of the most important parts of a heart healthy lifestyle. Not only can your doctor help to track your risk factors, he/she can also help by providing treatment options and recommending screenings and tests to detect heart disease when it is most treatable. To find a cardiologist near you, visit gwinnettmedicalgroup.com/physicians.

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