The 4 most surprising signs of heart disease, according to doctors

Heart disease is sometimes called the “silent killer” and for good reason. Nearly half of all heart attacks are mistaken for less serious problems, according to Harvard Medical School. There are obvious signs of heart problems – such as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea – but ignoring the subtler signs of heart disease can lead to serious health consequences and even death. Read on to find out what clues to look for in your body that could signal heart problems.

READ THIS NEXT: The 3 Signs Your Chest Pain Isn’t a Heart Attack, Experts Say.


Jaw and neck pain

Chest pain isn’t the only discomfort associated with heart problems. Pain that radiates from your chest to your jaw and neck can signal heart problems such as a heart attack, heart disease, or an irregular heartbeat.

“Pain in the jaw and neck can be signs of a heart attack or reduced blood flow to the heart,” he warns. edo peace, MD, a K Health certified cardiologist. “The most typical symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, shortness of breath, and sweating. However, jaw or neck pain can point to heart problems, especially if the discomfort gets worse when you’re exercising and stops when you rest.”

Bobbi Bogaev, MD, cardiologist and medical director at Abiomed, gives the example of a recent patient who began to experience pain in his jaw and neck while riding a bicycle. “After consulting a cardiologist, [the patient] was told he had damage to three of his heart vessels, including the left anterior descending artery, also known as the widow’s artery,” Bogaev explains. It’s a helpful reminder not to ignore jaw or neck pain and seek medical attention if you feel that.

READ THIS NEXT: If you notice this while lying on your back, have your heart checked.


Cramps, pain or numbness in the calves

A surprising sign of heart problems is pain or discomfort in your calves. “Cramps, pain or numbness in the calves when walking can be related to peripheral artery disease (PAD),” explains Paz. “PAD is a chronic condition where the blood vessels that carry blood to your organs and limbs become blocked, resulting in decreased blood flow.” Paz notes that other symptoms of PAD include leg sores, poor hair growth, and changes in skin pigmentation.

Calf pain that occurs during exercise and disappears with rest is a classic symptom of PAD. People with PAD often have atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries), which cuts off blood flow to the legs and can lead to a heart attack or stroke. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly half of Americans have atherosclerosis and don’t know it. So if you experience cramping, pain, numbness or discomfort in your calves when walking, talk to your doctor about whether this could indicate heart problems.


problems in the room

Research shows that heart health can affect performance in the bedroom for both men and women, as sexual dysfunction is linked to blood flow issues. For men, erectile dysfunction (ED) can be an early sign of arterial damage and heart disease. ED is a circulatory problem usually caused by hardening of the arteries or endothelial dysfunction – a condition in which blood vessels cannot expand and contract properly. These conditions reduce blood flow to the penis and are associated with heart disease.

Heart disease and sexual dysfunction are not exclusive to men. A 2007 study found that 87% of women with heart failure reported symptoms of sexual dysfunction, including vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse and low libido. Endothelial dysfunction is the culprit behind these problems and can lead to circulatory problems, plaque formation in the arteries, blockage of the arteries and heart attack.

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Bad breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, can affect more than your social life – it could be a sign that you have heart problems. What do bad breath and heart disease have in common? Gum disease. People with gum disease may be twice as likely to develop heart problems such as hardening of the arteries, blood clots, heart attack and stroke, according to Dentistry IQ.

Bacteria that build up on your tongue, teeth and gums cause bad breath. According to the AARP, this bacteria can enter the bloodstream through bleeding or diseased gums, which are associated with clogged arteries and stroke. Bacteria that enter the bloodstream can also cause inflammation in the blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease.

If you are concerned about your heart health, talk to your doctor. They can review your symptoms and help determine the best course of action for you.

READ THIS NEXT: Eating this 4 times a week reduces risk of death from heart attack, study says.

The 4 most surprising signs of heart disease, according to doctors

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