When we think about signs that our heart is unhealthy, sudden chest pain is usually the first thing that comes to mind. As it turns out, there are many signs that you’re headed down the dark path of having heart complications. And many of them have nothing to do with your chest at all.
Here are the startling signs you could die from heart complications.
You have a crease in your earlobe
One of the most shocking and bizarre signs of heart complications comes from an unlikely body part — your ears. Scientists have found that having a crease or wrinkle through the middle of your earlobe, which is due to a change in blood vessels, could indicate that a similar change in vessels is occurring around the heart. While this a still only a theory, the ear could be pivotal in helping to identify heart disease.
Next: Sawing logs has a lot to do with your ticker.
You snore. A lot.
Snoring is probably the loudest indicator that something is wrong with your heart. Sawing logs can be a symptom of sleep apnea — a condition marked by pauses in breathing that happen throughout the night and interrupt your sleep. Sleep apnea also raises your blood pressure, putting you at a higher risk for an attack and other cardiovascular diseases.
Next: Your belly could be telling you your heart is in trouble.
You have constant stomach pain
You might not think your stomach and heart are that closely connected. In fact, stomach pain and a loss of appetite can be signs that you are going to have a heart attack. During an attack, your stomach can hurt so bad that you feel sick enough to vomit.
Next: Tired? It could be a sign that your heart is in jeopardy.
You’re always exhausted
One of the most telling signs of congestive heart failure is that you feel exhausted — all the time. This occurs when your heart isn’t getting enough oxygen, which can often be caused by plaque build-up in your arteries. Feelings of exhaustion may also be accompanied by chest pain. (More on that a bit later.)
Next: How the spins are related to your most vital organ
You have frequent dizzy spells
Heart complications are often preceded by dizziness. WebMD tells us that a drop in blood pressure when someone stands up causes the feeling of lightheadedness. They also point out that recognizing this symptom can help doctors spot heart failure early.
Next: Coughs and cardiovascular health
You have a chronic cough
Have a bad hack that just won’t go away? It could be telling you something about your heart. In fact, fluid buildup in the lungs accompanied by coughing and wheezing is one of the telltale signs of congestive heart failure, Heart Rhythm Society tells us.
Next: The term “my heart was in my throat” just took on a whole new meaning.
There is pain in your throat
That’s right — your throat could be telling you there is something wrong with your heart. In some cases, pain in your chest becomes so extreme that it spreads up into your throat, or even your jaw. If the pain is this severe and travels up that high into your face, you should immediately call 911.
Next: Don’t ignore that awful queasy feeling.
You’re nauseated all the time
All the pain that you are experiencing in different parts of your body will probably leave you feeling nauseated. As Health points out, this sick feeling is often accompanied by a sudden rush of anxiety. Talk to your doctor if these symptoms happen often — it could very well be heart-related.
Next: Are your feet warning you of heart complications?
You have swollen ankles and feet
The feet seem like they are awfully far away from your heart, right? Nevertheless, they are excellent indicators of how healthy your heart is. When your heart isn’t pumping properly, blood flow slows and builds up in the veins in your legs. Fluid retention in the abdomen is also a common sign of a poorly-beating heart.
Next: Disoriented? It could be your heart warning you there’s trouble.
Sounds crazy, right? How can an episode of confusion be telling you something about your heart? The American Heart Association explains that “changing levels of certain substances in the blood, such as sodium, can cause confusion.” Feeling disoriented and experiencing memory loss are also signs of heart trouble.
Next: It could be that large meal you just ate. Or it could be heart problems on the horizon.
You feel like you have indigestion
As we previously discussed, a heart attack may be preceded by stomach pain. But the pain doesn’t even have to be sharp. Any discomfort in the upper-abdominal region, such as that of indigestion, can be a sign that you’re at high risk of having a heart attack. It is also possible to feel that discomfort in your back like with gas pain.
Next: Are you constantly wiping your brow of sweat?
You sweat profusely
We aren’t talking about dripping in sweat after a long workout. We mean perspiration from doing little to no activity. A heart attack may be preceded by flu-like symptoms, even though you don’t have a fever and aren’t actually sick. In the event that you start sweating a ton for no reason, you should get yourself to the hospital. Or call for help.
Next: One of the most startling signs that your heart is in jeopardy.
There is pain shooting down your arm
A surefire sign of a heart attack is tingling down your left arm. But you can also foresee heart problems if your arm hurts ahead of an attack actually taking place. As Livestrong.com explains, it can be hard to determine whether arm pain is actually heart-related. However, if it is accompanied by other heart-related symptoms, then you could be at serious risk of a heart attack.
Next: This can be a sign of many ailments, and heart disease is one of them.
You experience frequent heartburn
Heartburn can be a tricky factor, in that some people might mistake heart attack symptoms for heartburn. “Heartburn, angina and heart attack may feel very much alike,” Mayo Clinic says. “Even experienced doctors can’t always tell the difference from your medical history and a physical exam.” Any heartburn-like symptoms that regularly pop up without warning should clue you in that you need to go see a doctor — even if the symptoms subside within a few hours.
Next: Never ignore this terrifying sign.
You experience chest discomfort
Not surprisingly, an ache in your chest could be the first sign that you are doomed to have heart complications. As Harvard Health points out, however, chronic chest discomfort could be a sign for other health problems. (Pneumonia and pancreatitis are just a couple other conditions.) But don’t try diagnosing yourself. Head to the doctors immediately if chest pain is an issue. Your heart will thank you later.
Next: The most common ways you’re increasing your risk of heart disease.
Bottling it all up
If the Hulk were real, odds are he would’ve had a stroke or an aneurysm at some point. All the stress and anger? It can put added pressure on your body. Blood pressure, for example, can spike. And if you’re stressed and angry, all the time? It’s going to cause some real heart issues — especially when coupled with high cholesterol, obesity, and other risk factors.
Next: The American Heart Associations says to watch your intake of this.
First, we came for your bacon cheeseburger. Now, we’re coming for your beer.
As much as it sucks, drinking can also lead to an increased risk of heart disease, the American Heart Association says. But it’s all about moderation — having a beer or two here and there isn’t going to do much damage. It’s when you drink a lot — whether binging every so often or going for the slow burn — that real problems arise.
Next: This activity restricts blood vessels and helps fatty buildup form.
We’re not quite done attacking all things fun. Smoking, as almost everyone is aware, is a surefire way to guarantee an early death. Cancers aside, smoking can also be a huge contributor to heart disease. Smoking restricts the blood vessels, and as the AHA notes, can also help fatty buildup form in the arteries. And the younger you start smoking, the higher your risk of developing heart disease.
Next: This daily habit is probably more important than you think.
Bad sleep habits
It may sound bizarre, but your sleep habits can actually have an impact on your cardiovascular health. Not getting enough sleep has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. There are several reasons for it, including a higher likelihood of hypertension. Stress plays a big role as well, as a lack of sleep will make you tired, irritable, and cause stress to build up.
Next: You really should listen to your dentist.
Yes — pretty much everything fun and delicious is bad for your heart. Sugar is awful for you in pretty much every way, especially when you consume foods or beverages with lots of added sweeteners. That extra sugar, studies show, leads to a higher risk of heart disease. Obesity also plays into it, which puts you at a higher risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure. So steer clear of too many sweets.
Next: And you thought medication was always a good thing.
Taking certain medications
Medicine is supposed to make you better, right? Well, yes — but sometimes, it can cause other complications. And when it comes to heart health, there are many medications that can wreak havoc on your ticker. In fact, there are lists of more than 100 medications and supplements that are associated with heart problems.
But there are three categories that are the biggest offenders: Medicines containing high sodium levels, antihistamines, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, for example).
Next: This is one of the main reasons you could have heart problems.
This is a bit obvious, but it needs to be included. If you don’t get enough physical activity in during the day, it’s going to hurt your body. And it’s one of the main reasons people develop heart disease, The New York Times reports. When you don’t burn off enough energy during the day, you eventually end up putting on weight. That makes your heart’s job harder, and if you start gaining weight, your cholesterol and lipid levels can be thrown off balance.
Next: Does salt and sodium play a role in your heart health?
There’s a fair amount of debate as to whether salt and sodium play a role in heart health. But your body does have a salt balance to keep in check, just like it does with sugar. Salt intake doesn’t actually cause heart disease, but it can throw the amount of water in your body off, which can constrict the blood vessels and lead to hypertension. That can cause problems as it relates to your cardiovascular system, especially if your vessels are already strained.
Next: You shouldn’t skip this at the dinner table.
Skipping the fruits and veggies
Bringing your diet back into the mix, it’s important that you’re eating your fruits and veggies — just like your mom used to make you do. No, a salad isn’t as satisfying or delicious as a cheeseburger, but produce is chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Make it a habit of eating more produce (there are a lot of ways to get it into your diet), and you’ll be able to dodge unhealthy processed foods and meats with higher frequency.
Next: We hate to break the news to you, but this is a huge source of heart issues.
For most people, the biggest source of artery-clogging fats and cholesterol is meat. Not all meats are created equal, mind you, as lean options like fish and chicken are typically good for you. It’s the processed and red meats that present a real problem. If you’re someone who has to have bacon every morning and a burger for lunch or dinner every day, you’re increasing your risk.
Additional reporting by Sam Becker.