More clues to possible heart trouble
Heart Health: Page 2
3. Sore, swollen or bleeding gums
Sore, swollen, or bleeding gums are symptoms not only of periodontal disease -- in which exposure to bacteria causes the gums to become inflamed and pull away from the teeth -- but also a possible early sign of underlying cardiovascular disease.
Scary stat: A 2010 study by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) estimated that the prevalence of periodontal disease may be underestimated by as much as 50 percent.
Why it happens: Experts believe that poor circulation due to heart disease could be an underlying cause of periodontal disease. Researchers are also studying whether a common bacteria is involved in both gum disease and plaque buildup inside coronary arteries. The link may also have something to do with the body's response to prolonged inflammation.
What to do: See a dentist to treat gum disease and prevent the presence of bacteria. Because gum disease can be a red flag for inflammation and circulatory problems, ask your doctor if ongoing gum symptoms warrant a checkup.
4. Puffy or swollen legs or feet
If you notice that your feet swell enough to make your shoes tight; your ankles, wrists, or fingers are noticeably puffy; or there are deep pressure marks or indents when you take off socks or hose, you may have a problem with fluid retention. Also called edema, fluid retention can be a sign of coronary artery disease (CAD), heart failure, and other forms of cardiovascular disease.
Scary stat: More than 80 million people have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease, and approximately 900,000 people die from it each year.
Why it happens: Fluid retention occurs when the heart doesn't pump strongly enough and blood doesn't carry waste products away from tissues. Edema usually starts in the feet, ankles, fingers, hands, and legs because they're furthest from the heart, where circulation is poorer.
What to do: Report problems with edema to your doctor, who can run tests that may indicate CAD and can determine if your heart function is normal.
5. Irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia
An early sign that something in the cardiovascular system is out of whack is irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia. It may feel like your heart is skipping beats, beating too fast, or pounding too hard.
Scary stat: Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of sudden death for both men and women because it can lead to both heart attack and stroke.
Why it happens: The most common cause of irregular heartbeat is CAD, which restricts blood flow to the heart, straining the electrical system that keeps the heartbeat regular and coordinates it with other functions. Heart failure can also cause arrhythmias because the weakened heart overcompensates by beating harder and faster.
What to do: An EKG can measure the electrical activity of your heart, including the regularity of the heartbeat. A stress test, which measures your heart rate while you walk on a treadmill, can determine if your heart is pumping properly.