Shortness of breath, heart palpitations and irregular heart beat are a few of the commonly known symptoms of heart disease, and even heart attacks. But there are additional signs that your body could be experiencing a heart condition. While these eight lesser known symptoms may indicate a bigger issue with your heart, always talk to your doctor to access your risk.
1. Jaw pain/toothache/headache
We once wrote about the connection between heart disease and gum disease, and a cardiologist told us they can tell a lot about a person’s overall health by how healthy their mouth is. So it’s no wonder that pain in the jaw/teeth and accompanying headaches could be symptoms of a heart attack. This warning sign is more common in women, and is not regularly identified as symptoms of heart disease.
Fluid retention and bloating in the ankles can be signs of heart failure or other issues. If your ankles are unusually swollen and you don’t know why, be sure to have your primary care provider check it out.
According to the American Heart Association, lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting can be warning signs of a heart attack more commonly found in women. This warning sign often feels like you’ve overexerted yourself, even if you haven’t been particularly active. Think of high school students overdoing it in the heat during football or track practice. If you’re not working like that but are feeling that kind of nausea, seek medical attention.
4. Abdominal pain
Even though heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S., women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or ulcers. Some women describe that their heart attack felt like an elephant sitting on their stomach. If heart conditions run in your family and you’re experiencing severe abdominal pain, it might be more serious than you think. Seek help right away, even when the signs are subtle.
Sweating during physical activity or in hot weather is a healthy, normal body reaction. But if you’re perspiring and also experiencing discomfort in your chest, and you haven’t been moving around, this could be the onset of a heart attack.
6. Neck circumference
Waist size is typically associated with heart disease risk, but you may want to bust out the measuring tape and measure your neck. A neck circumference of 16 inches or greater for men and 13 inches or greater for women can indicate a higher likelihood of elevated blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
7. Erectile dysfunction
We’ve talked a lot about the subtle differences that women experience during a heart attack, but here’s one specifically for men. Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of heart disease or other circulatory problems. ED is very common as men age is often a sign of atherosclerosis, a clogging or narrowing of the blood vessels that leads to heart attacks. Talk to your doctor if you believe you are at risk.
Fainting can be a sign of lowered blood pressure, which limits the amount of blood going to the brain. Although fainting is not a common symptom, it may be a sign of irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation (AFib).
Now that you’re familiar with the less common signs of heart disease, put your knowledge to the test.
Take our Heart Symptom Quiz.