You’ve probably heard that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the U.S. That’s most likely because so many of our common habits are not very heart-healthy. In fact, heart disease accounts for 40% of all U.S. deaths, more than all forms of cancer combined.
“Heart disease” is actually an umbrella term that includes conditions like heart attack, cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure, and the most common form, coronary artery disease. And unfortunately, many of the signs that you’re destined for heart disease aren’t what you might think. If you have several of the following symptoms, your health issues could very well be in your heart (men aren’t likely to experience No. 7).
1. Frequent nausea and indigestion
Nausea and indigestion can be caused by a lot of things, many of them harmless. But if you haven’t eaten anything unsettling, you’re not sick, and you have other symptoms of heart problems, see a doctor. Nausea and indigestion without a reasonable explanation can be a sign of a heart attack, and women are more likely than men to experience them.
2. Jaw pain and toothaches
Some cardiologists claim they can tell a lot about a person’s overall health by how healthy their mouth is. So it makes sense that unexplained pain in the jaw and teeth, which is often accompanied by a headache, is a sign of a heart attack. This isn’t often considered a symptom of heart disease, so be especially diligent and proactive if you have unexplained jaw or tooth pain.
How loud is your breathing when you’re sleeping? While it’s normal to snore a little, loud snoring that resembles gasping or choking sounds can be a sign of sleep apnea, according to WebMD. This is when you stop breathing for brief moments, which puts extra strain on your heart.
4. Neck circumference
It probably seems like a bit of a stretch that neck size is tied to heart health. But it’s true: A recent study from Brazil showed that people with large necks, especially men, may be at higher risk for heart disease. According to study author Cristina Baena, Ph.D., fat deposits around your neck can produce inflammatory substances that lead to plaque buildup in the carotid arteries in your neck, which hampers your heart health.
Sweating is a natural and healthy reaction to physical activity or hot weather. But if you’re sweating on a 50-degree day while you’re sedentary and you also have discomfort in your chest, it could mean the onset of a heart attack.
6. Sexual dysfunction
If you’re having trouble performing in the bedroom, heart disease is probably the last thing on your mind. But when the blood vessels aren’t working well, sexual problems can easily occur. Even if you aren’t experiencing other symptoms of heart disease, it’s best to see a doctor and rule it out.
7. Marital stress
Stress in a marriage is terrible for the heart, especially if you’re a woman. Frequent arguments in your relationship increase the risks of an actual broken heart. Differences in the way the sexes handle stress, as well as hormones, can explain why men aren’t as likely to experience this.
8. Swollen body parts
Swollen body parts could indicate serious health problems. If you have swollen legs, feet, and ankles, it could be a sign your heart doesn’t pump blood as effectively as it should, according to WebMD. The body parts get swollen due to blood backing up in the veins. WebMD also notes, “Heart failure can also make it harder for the kidneys to remove extra water and sodium from the body, which can lead to bloating.”
9. An ounce of prevention
Of course, the best way to avoid problems with heart disease is to do your best to keep your heart healthy. While some heart troubles are genetic, there are plenty of lifestyle changes you can make to stay out of the ER. Exercising, quitting smoking, and eating nutritious foods are great ways to keep your ticker ticking for many years to come. There are also some surprisingly effective things you can do, like getting plenty of rest and getting a dog.