Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Every 40 seconds, someone suffers a heart attack resulting in 1 out of every 7 deaths. Each year, approximately 720,000 new heart attacks will occur with an additional 335,000 recurrent. Added to this is stroke, which adds another 390 deaths per day.

New Mexico accounts for nearly 5,000 such deaths each year. Naturally, knowing the early signs of heart disease can save your life. What are the early signs one should watch for?

What are the warning signs of clogged arteries?

Atherosclerosis is the proper term for coronary heart disease. It simply refers to how fat and cholesterol builds up within the arteries and restrict the flow of blood to the heart. This can occur in any part of the body. When the blockage becomes large enough, the heart, starved of blood, stops. This is a heart attack. How can one tell if they have clogging of the arteries?

The blood vessels carry nutrients and oxygen from the heart to other parts of the body. Thus, when blood flow is restricted because of clogged arteries, problems begin to be made manifest in very specific ways. Sadly, most of these problems do not appear until there is significant blockage, which is why so many fail to see the signs and suffer a fatal heart attack.

Since oxygen flow is reduced, some of the key warning signs of clogged arteries include:

  • Angina – chest pain in the area of the heart
  • Sudden numbness in extremities including pain when walking
  • High blood pressure
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

These are the main, though not the only symptoms. In some cases, a heart attack is imminent while in others, a stroke may be occurring. Remember though that heart failure is not immediate. Rather, it occurs in stages.

What are the 4 stages of heart failure?

Heart failure is not immediate. It occurs after a build-up of conditions over time, most of these unseen and unnoticed until it is too late. The four stages of heart failure include:

  • Stage A – No symptoms or loss of function, but there is a chronic build-up within the arteries.
  • Stage B – No symptoms occur in this stage either. At this stage, the left ventricle of the heart will become enlarged in an effort to properly pump blood as needed.
  • Stage C – At this point, a person will be showing mild symptoms such as breathlessness or general fatigue.
  • Stage D – This is the point at which most people notice there is a problem. Stage D is where most of the best-known symptoms of coronary heart disease become manifest and is also the stage at which a heart attack or stoke is likely.

Given these stages, one can easily see how easy it is to miss the signs until it is too late. Still, there are things which someone can do to protect themselves and prevent coronary heart disease. This will be the subject of a future article. For now, what should someone do if they experience any of these symptoms?

What heart disease symptoms should never be ignored?

There are 11 symptoms of possible coronary heart disease which should never be ignored. These are:

  1. Chest Discomfort This could be pain, pressure, general tightness, stinging, or burning. A brief pain may be nothing, but should still be checked out. If the discomfort last longer than a few minutes, call 911.
  2. Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, stomach pain could all be symptoms of impending heart attack, especially in combination with other symptoms.
  3. Pain which radiates down the left arm; usually starts form the chest and moves down the arm from there.
  4. Feeling dizzy or lightheaded could indicate a drop in blood pressure.
  5. Pain in the jaw or throat resulting after a chest pain.
  6. Easily exhausted or winded. Something as simple as climbing a staircase or bringing groceries from the car to the house could be signs of arterial blockage.
  7. Loud snoring, especially if it sounds like choking or gasping could be sleep apnea, which places additional strain on the heart.
  8. Cold sweat Although sweating is normal, a sudden cold sweat for no clear reason is a sign of heart attack. Especially if other symptoms have been experienced, if this occurs, call 911 right away.
  9. A lingering cough may be a sign that the heart is struggling to keep up with the needs of the body. If the mucus is pink, it could indicate that blood is leaking into the lungs.
  10. Swelling in the feet, legs, and ankles is often caused when the heart cannot pump blood from extremities as it should. Also, heart failure can restrict the kidney’s ability to remove sodium (salt) from the body. This can cause bloating.
  11. Irregular heart beat although the heart missing a beat on occasion is normal, if the heart often skips a beat, this could be a sign of atrial fibrillation.

If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, they should be checked out by their primary care physician. If there is a condition which indicates coronary heart disease, he or she will then refer them to a cardiac specialist.

Kymera Indendent Physicians have been providing both general medical care and specialty healthcare for 22 years in SENM. Would you like to arrange an appointment now?Calendar image with Request an Appointment