As many as a quarter of all deaths in the UK each year are caused by heart and circulatory diseases; that’s an average of 450 deaths each day or one every 3 minutes in the UK. What’s more, there are currently over 7 million people living with heart and circulatory disease in the UK. This begs the question, why aren’t we talking about heart health more?
February is National Heart Awareness Month, and to support this, we are sharing our tips on how to better stay aware of your own heart health, and highlighting the symptoms you should get checked out. After all, if you look after your heart, it’ll look after you! Scarily, many heart conditions go undetected – you simply might not know anything is wrong. That’s because there are some ‘not so obvious’ signs that can actually be linked to your heart. Use the advice in this post to become aware of the warning signs and risk factors, so that you know when you or someone you care about should get checked out by a GP.
One of the more apparent signs of a heart problem is chest pain. Whilst most chest discomfort isn’t the sign of a heart attack, if you repeatedly experience some form of chest pain, it could be a warning sign. However, for severe chest pain, you should seek medical attention immediately as this could be a sign of a heart attack. During a heart attack, people often report feeling a heavy, tight and constricting feeling within the chest. This can also be partnered with pain in other areas of the body, as well as sweating, nausea and lightheadedness.
But what about severe chest pain that’s not a heart attack? Angina is a heart condition that causes chest pain, this is due to a blockage within your coronary arteries. Unlike a heart attack, which can come on when a person is resting, angina is generally triggered by a form of physical activity. The moral of the story is that if you’re experiencing unexplained chest pain, go and get it checked by a medical professional.
Experiencing pain in your arm can also be a warning sign for heart health. If pain is travelling down your arm, particularly the left arm, it could actually be related to your heart; especially when accompanied by chest pain. Of course, most arm pain isn’t an immediate sign of a heart attack and the important thing is not to panic. However, if symptoms don’t subside after a few minutes make sure you get emergency help.
Arm pain can be a sign of a heart problem, but did you know that leg pain is one of the main heart problem signs? If you experience pain or cramping in your legs, particularly when exercising, this could be a sign of PAD (peripheral arterial disease). This heart disease is caused by a buildup of fatty deposits which restricts the blood supply to the legs. Certain factors such as smoking, suffering from diabetes, being overweight or simply growing older increases your risk of heart disease, particularly PAD. The good news is through a combination of healthier lifestyle choices and medication, it can be controlled.
Have you noticed your shoes aren’t fitting as well, or your socks are leaving an indentation on your leg? Sometimes there is a reasonable explanation for this, such as a sports injury or medication to control high blood pressure. However, unexplained swollen feet and/or ankles can be linked to various heart problems. If you’ve noticed this change, it’s certainly worth making an appointment with a doctor to get it checked out.
Did you know nausea, indigestion and stomach pain can all be linked to heart problems? That doesn’t mean you need to panic every time you feel sick thinking that you’re having heart failure. However, if someone is experiencing sickness alongside chest pain, it could be a sign to get help.
For stomach pain and indigestion; pain in these areas is experienced in very close proximity to the heart. So it can be tricky to know exactly what is causing the pain (even for experienced doctors!). Our main piece of advice is if you’re experiencing severe and persistent pain in the chest, get emergency help.
When it comes to pain in and around the mouth area, your first thought would be to visit your dentist over a doctor right? Wrong! Jaw pain or toothache, when accompanied by a headache could actually mean you are having a heart attack. Generally, this will be accompanied by chest pain, so if this pain doesn’t go away, make sure you seek help immediately.
Extreme fatigue is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. If you’ve been having regular late nights, or have made a big change in your routine, it’s a sign that your body needs more rest and recuperation. But what about when your lifestyle hasn’t changed, but you feel tired all of the time? This could be a sign of a heart issue. Unexplained fatigue can be related to so many issues, so whether it’s a heart-related issue or something else, it’s certainly worth having a chat with a GP.
Raising heart health awareness is something we’re passionate about, so we hope this post has given you some more insight into symptoms you should look out for to look after your heart. Share this with a friend, family member or colleague to continue to raise awareness! If you’ve noticed some warning signs, no matter how small, please get it checked. We have a dedicated cardiology team to find, diagnose and treat any issues you may be facing.