HEART disease is the most common cause of death worldwide, and the symptoms can be more subtle than the distinct pain associated with heart attacks.
It is said that the most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest; however, it is not always severe or noticeable.
In fact, so subtle are the symptoms for women that they tend to show up in emergency rooms after heart damage has already occurred, as heart attacks in women can occur without chest pain.
Some subtle symptoms of heart disease include:
1. Swelling in the lower legs
General, laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon Dr Alfred Dawes explained that when your heart doesn't work as well, blood flow slows and backs up in the veins in your legs, also causing fluid to build up in your tissues (edema).
2. Chest pain
The amount and type of pain can vary from person to person, and the intensity of the pain does not always relate to how severe the problem is. Dr Dawes said while this is common, women with diabetes will feel a crushing pain in their chest when lying down, and others may only experience mild discomfort. He added that some may feel a sharp burning pain in their chest while there may also be pain under the breast bone, neck, shoulder, jaw, upper back or stomach.
Dr Dawes said angina is chest pain or discomfort caused when your heart muscle doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood and may present as pressure or squeezing in your chest. He explained that it also occurs in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back, and may feel like indigestion. Dr Dawes made it clear that it is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying problem, usually coronary heart disease. Dr Dawes said the pain usually eases when one is sleeping or at rest.
4. Shortness of breath
Dr Dawes says shortness of breath while sleeping is a sign of heart disease, especially if you find that you sleep better on a stack of pillows.
Making several lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease can be beneficial in the long run. These changes include:
1. Quit or don't start smoking.
2. Exercise regularly.
3. Maintain a healthy weight.
4. Eat a healthy diet inclusive of whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and lean meats. Dr Dawes stressed that it is important to avoid saturated or trans fat, added sugars, and high amounts of salt.