In real life, most people look for “symptoms” while overlooking the “signs” of heart disease.
But doctors, if we get a chance to examine you, seriously look for the signs. They give us a “sneak preview” of the symptoms yet to come.
For your health and safety, here is the difference between a sign and a symptom of heart disease.
First, some definitions:
➡ Symptoms of Heart Disease s are indications that you feel or experience.
➡ Signs of heart disease are things your doctor can see or find.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Ankle swelling
- Unexpected weight gain
Signs like ankle swelling or weight gain do not necessarily mean you have heart disease but taken together with other symptoms of heart disease, laboratory studies, and family history, they’re an important part of making a correct diagnosis of heart disease or heart failure,
Recognizing the signs of heart disease is important because you may have them before you have any of the common symptoms. And the sooner you discuss them with your doctor, the sooner he/she will be able to start treatment, preventing further damage.
The difference between a sign and a symptom of heart disease.
1. Swelling of the Feet and Lower Legs
- Edema may appear as “sock marks” on your legs and ankles at the end of the day, especially if you wear tight socks or hose.
Mild peripheral edema is common.
Your doctor may check for this sign by pressing a finger against your ankle or shin bone to see if a depression or dent is left behind. This is called “pitting edema” and it could indicate Congestive Heart Failure.
- Edema is an important clue because when your heart isn’t pumping well, fluid from inside your blood vessels tends to leak out into surrounding tissues. The legs and ankles are usually the first to swell up because of the effects of gravity.
While peripheral edema can be caused by several other issues, the bottom line is that most people with peripheral edema do not have heart disease, but it could be an important sign if there are other signs and symptoms of heart failure present.
2. Male Pattern Baldness
➡ Compared to men with a full head of hair, men with hair loss at the crown have a 23% greater risk of heart disease.
➡ Men with complete loss of hair on the top of their head have a 36% greater risk of heart disease.
*The combination of hair loss, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol pushes the risk even higher.
Please Note: This link may be due to too much of the male hormone testosterone, which interferes with hair growth on the head and causes hardening of the arteries.
That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to heart disease if you’re bald, but it does suggest you should be screened more carefully for other signs and symptoms of heart disease.
3. Yellow Bumps on the Skin
➡ They may appear as small yellow bumps or as flat, wide plaques on your elbows, knees, hands, feet, or buttocks.
➡ One type of xanthoma (called xanthelasma palpebrarum) appears on the eyelids.
These yellow, fat deposits are potential signs of heart disease because they may indicate high levels of fats in the blood.
➡ Additionally, Xanthomas may be a sign of a rare, inherited type of blood disorder in which high levels of triglycerides accumulate in the blood.
➡ Xanthomas may also be a sign of increased cholesterol, and they may disappear once cholesterol levels are under control.
4. Gum Disease
➡ The association between gum disease and heart disease is the real deal. There is plenty of research available now that backs up this connection.
This link between gum disease and heart disease may be due to the fact that they’re both signs of poor circulation. There may also be common bacteria that are involved in both gum disease and plaque buildup in coronary arteries.
The link may also have something to do with the body’s response to prolonged inflammation. In any case, taking better care of your teeth and gums may be a good way to cut down your risk for heart disease.
➡ The weakening of the heart muscle along with extreme emotional stress, grief, or loss, especially in women, is called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome. Click on the link at the bottom of the page to learn more about this interesting condition.
➡ When this happens, surging stress hormones, especially adrenaline, trigger cardiac pain that feels a lot like a heart attack, often with heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and flushing.
But unlike during a real heart attack, the arteries are not blocked.
This potentially serious and often overlooked condition is more common in women than in men; in fact, men make up for only 10% of diagnosed cases.
6. Heart Failure
One type of heart failure is called congestive heart failure, or CHF. There are Left Heart failure, and Right Heart failure. Both gradually gets worse over time.
Some early warning signs may include:
➡ If your heart starts to fail and fluid starts to build up in your tissue, causing edema, you might see a sudden weight gain.
➡ Heart failure may cause decreased blood flow to the kidneys, which causes you to retain more fluid. One of the signs of this excess fluid may be frequent urination.
➡ Although the exact cause of the relationship between cataracts and heart disease is not known, studies show that people who have cataracts are at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
However, this is not necessarily a sign of heart disease for everyone.
A Nighttime Cough
One of the common signs of heart failure is the buildup of fluid in the chest and heart when lying flat at night. The excess fluid can cause a nighttime cough.
Remember that all of these signs/symptoms may also have many different causes. These findings do not mean that you have or will have heart disease.
That being said, however, along with other heart disease signs and symptoms, your blood tests and your family history give your doctor the best chance to find heart disease early and keep you in good health.