4 surprising signs of an unhealthy heart
What signs do you look for to indicate a healthy heart? Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for both men and women, and its onset is usually associated with chest pain. Researchers from the American College of Cardiology found that it's one of the most common symptoms of heart disease, along with shortness of breath. However, there are plenty of other, more subtle, signs that can also tip you off to an unhealthy heart. Here are four:
1. Swollen legs and feet
While this symptom doesn't always indicate heart disease (it can also be a sign of lung or peripheral artery disease), it's a helpful sign on the way to diagnosis, according to Carl E. Orringer, the director of preventive cardiovascular medicine at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. This is because when blood isn't properly pumped through your body it tends to build up in your legs and feet, causing these extremities to swell.
2. Gum disease
You'd typically take red, sore gums as a cue to visit the dentist, but you may want to see a cardiologist as well. Bacteria in your mouth can enter your bloodstream and lead to heart problems. Gum disease and heart disease are also linked as both are bodily responses to inflammation. Either way, experts recommend good dental hygiene as a way to maintain cardiovascular health.
A 2013 study published in BMJ Open found that male pattern baldness can indicate a 30 to 40 percent higher risk of heart disease compared to men with a full head of hair. While the researchers didn't find a reason for the link, they hypothesized that it had to do with the common risk factors for heart disease, like high cholesterol and smoking, Another theory is that it is related to a high level of testosterone, which can both inhibit hair growth and harden arteries. Baldness has also been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes.
4. Sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is often associated with certain risk factors of heart disease, like hypertension and obesity. When breathing stops during sleep, your brain sends a signal to the rest of your body that increases blood pressure and heart rate, causing inflammation. Over time, this can damage blood vessels. Sufferers of sleep apnea can make certain lifestyle changes to improve the condition.
When it comes to avoiding all these signs and risk factors, diet plays an extremely important role. A 2015 study from the journal Phycologia pointed to the impact nutritional influences, like sodium, can have on the onset of cardiovascular disease, citing past research that found the intake of certain ingredients to increase the risk. The study explored the effectiveness of dietary fiber, specifically that of marine algae, as a means to combat them. The research concluded that seaweed contained all the necessary amounts of dietary fiber and antioxidants, and should be a cornerstone in any heart-healthy diet, along with fruits and vegetables.
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