By: Zeenat Farooq
Heart, the centre of circulation, is one of the vital organs in our body. From Bollywood to health journals, and further to clinical outcomes, this organ has always occupied a central position.
It is often said that a healthy heart can ensure a healthy mind and body, but, what should we do in our day to day life to ensure proper heart health? In other words, how would we know if our heart is healthy?
Heart trouble does not always come with clear signs like sharp chest pain. In fact, some of the heart problems do not cause chest pain at all. Therefore it is not always easy to tell if a person has a heart trouble. However there are a number of signs and symptoms that we should keep in mind for a healthy heart.
Chest Discomfort: It is the most common sign of heart trouble. If you have a blocked artery or even a minor chest problem, you may feel pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest. The intensity and nature of the tightness or pain can be different, depending upon the severity of the issue. For some people, it might be as if an elephant is sitting over them but for some others, it might be a pinching or burning sensation. This feeling could last for a few minutes and can happen when somebody is at rest or when he is doing some physical activity. If the feeling wards off after a few minutes, there is certainly nothing serious but one should consult a doctor if it persists or repeats itself with similar or higher intensity and at the same position. Also, keep in mind you can have heart problems, even a heart attack, without chest pain. This is particularly common among women.
Nausea, Indigestion, Heartburn, or Stomach Pain. Some people may have these symptoms during a heart attack. These symptoms are more common in women. Although one can have an upset stomach for many reasons that have nothing to do with your heart but be careful that it can also happen during a heart attack. If a person feels such symptoms without having some actual stomach disorder, he should immediately consult a specialist, especially when the person is at a risk for heart diseases.
Pain that Spreads to the Arm. Another classic heart attack symptom is pain that radiates down the left side of the body. It almost always starts from the chest and moves outwards but in some cases, it could be primarily arm pain that might turn out to be a heart attack.
Irregular Heart Beat. Racing of heart beat is normal upon excitement, nervousness, fear or physical exertion but if one suffers unexplained or frequent irregularity in heart beat, the person should consult a doctor. In extreme cases, this could happen as a result of atrial fibrillation.
Getting exhausted easily. Feeling fatigued after doing normal routine activities like climbing stairs might be a significant symptom in case of heart trouble than even aches or pain. Extreme exhaustion or unexplained weakness, sometimes for days at a time, can be a symptom of a heart attack, especially for women.
Feeling Dizzy or Lightheaded. A lot of things can make a person lose his balance or feel faint for a moment like starvation, fasting or continued heavy physical exertion but a feeling of sudden unsteadiness that might be coupled with chest discomfort or shortness of breath can be a symptom of heart trouble. This condition might result from decrease in pulse rate or blood pressure due to slow functioning of heart.
Sweating. Breaking out in a cold sweat for no obvious reasons could signal a heart attack. If this happens along with any other symptoms, one should seek immediate medical attention.
Snoring. Unusually loud snoring, that sounds like gasping or choking, can be a sign of sleep apnea. This is a medical condition when a person stops breathing for brief moments several times at night while still sleeping. This puts extra stress on the heart and can lead to trouble if the condition is not addressed properly.
Throat or Jaw Pain. By itself, throat or jaw pain probably is not heart related. More likely, it is caused by a muscular issue, cold or a sinus problem. But if a person has pain or pressure in the center of his chest that spreads up into throat or jaw, it could be a sign of a heart attack. Seeking medical advice is the best possible option to rule out any issues.
Long lasting cough. In most cases, this is also not a sign of heart trouble but again, if a person is at a risk for heart disease, pay special attention to the symptom. In such cases, long-lasting cough that produces white or pink mucus could be a sign of heart trouble.
Swelling of Legs, Feet, and Ankles. This could be a sign that heart does not pump blood as effectively as it should which results in blood backing up in the veins and causing bloating. Heart failure can also make it harder for the kidneys to remove extra water and sodium from the body, which can lead to bloating. This however, like other symptoms, can have reasons other than heart trouble hence screening is very critical for effective treatment.
Author is a Research Scholar at Department of Biotechnology, University of Kashmir.