by Crystal Welch, MSN, HHQI RN Project Coordinator
Have you ever heard people discuss what it felt like when they experienced a heart attack? We’ve often heard of people describing the feeling of an elephant sitting on their chest. For some, they might think as long as they don’t feel an elephant, the pain they are experiencing is probably indigestion and they were not having a heart attack. We know our bodies best. If you don’t feel well or have any of the symptoms below, then it’s time to schedule an appointment with your medical provider. Below are some things to be aware of about your heart health, and if you are experiencing any of these, make sure you follow up with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
- Breathing problems during sleep such as snoring or sleep apnea may put your heart at risk. When breathing is restricted during sleep, it might be an underlying cause of cardiovascular disease. Sleep apnea occurs when breathing stops briefly during sleep and it is linked with a higher risk of both cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.
- A possible early sign of underlying cardiovascular disease are sore, swollen or bleeding gums which are symptoms of periodontal disease where exposure to bacteria causes the gums to becomes inflamed and pull away from the teeth.
- If you notice that your feet swell enough to cause your shoes to be tight; your ankles, wrist, or fingers are noticeably puffy; or there are indents or pressure marks when you take off your socks, you may have a problem with fluid retention. This is also called edema and can be sign of coronary artery disease (CAD), heart failure or other forms of cardiovascular disease.
- A persistent cough or wheezing can be symptoms of heart failure. Fluid accumulation in the lungs may be common in people with heart failure who cough up bloody phlegm.
- In many heart attacks, pain begins in the chest and spreads to the shoulders, arms, elbows, back, neck, jaw or abdomen. However some people do not experience chest pain, just pain in other areas, like one or both arms or between the shoulders. This is especially common in women. Also, the pain might come and go.
We know that:
- More than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
- Approximately 70 million American adults (29 percent) have high blood pressure—one of every three adults. Only about half (52 percent) of the people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.
- A government study estimates that nearly 80 percent of adult Americans do not get the recommended amount of exercise each week, potentially setting themselves up for years of health problems.
- The U.S. government recommends adults get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, one hour and 15 minutes of a vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of both. Adults should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights or doing push-ups at least twice per week.
Often improving our health involves making simple lifestyle modifications such as monitoring blood pressure regularly, cholesterol check-ups, giving up smoking, and being more active. Simple steps like these can go a long way toward maintaining good health and fending off long-term, potentially life-threatening diseases. Remember, do not try to diagnose your symptoms via the internet or by reading a medical book. Time is important and wasting it can be dangerous.
- American Heart Association – Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease, Stroke
- Journal of Indian Society Periodontology – The link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease: How far we have come in last two decades?
- WebMD – Heart Disease Health Center
- American Heart Association – Warning Signs of Heart Failure
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – Overweight and Obesity Signs
- CDC – High Blood Pressure Facts
- CDC – One in five adults meet overall physical activity guidelines
- CDC – Physical Activity is Essential to Healthy Aging