Your cardiovascular system begins with your heart, but then branches out to reach almost every area of your body, which can make it difficult to recognize a problem along this vast network. Still, there are often signs of a brewing problem if you know what to look out for.
To help you recognize when there may be an issue with your cardiovascular health, premier cardiologist Dr. James Kim and our team want to review three common symptoms here.
Let’s start with the most obvious sign that something’s amiss with your heart health — chest pain, which is medically known as angina.
While we use the term “pain,” this symptom encompasses any discomfort in your chest, such as the feeling that there’s pressure or squeezing in your chest. This pain can also radiate out from your chest and into your jaw, shoulders, back, and arms.
Your first thought when you have chest pain is typically whether you’re having a heart attack, which can present itself slightly differently between men and women.
The primary signs of a heart attack in both genders is the chest pain we mentioned above, but women are more likely to also develop:
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the back or jaw
- Cold sweat
In either case, it’s important that you call 911 immediately any time you or a loved one experiences a sudden onset of these symptoms.
Outside of a heart attack, people can also experience issues with chest pain if they have reduced blood flow to the heart, pericarditis, mitral valve prolapse, aortic dissection, and myocarditis.
No matter what’s driving your chest pain, it’s important that you seek our help right away as this is one symptom that you should never ignore.
Also called edema, if you have ongoing problems with leg swelling, there’s a good chance that it may be cardiovascular-related. When you have unexplained leg swelling (there’s no obvious injury), it typically means that fluid is building up in your tissues because of poor circulation.
There are many reasons why you may have poor circulation in your legs, including:
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Congestive heart failure
- Deep vein thrombosis
While leg swelling isn’t necessarily a medical emergency, it’s important to have us identify the underlying cause of the problem so that we can improve your circulation and reduce your risks for more serious problems down the road, such as heart attack and stroke.
Another common symptom of a cardiovascular issue is heart palpitations, but this symptom can be tricky as it can also be quite normal and harmless.
Under normal circumstances, your heart pumps away and you don’t feel a thing. When you become aware of your heartbeat, however, we call it a palpitation. Palpitations can include many different sensations, such as a:
- Racing heart
- Feeling like your heart is skipping a beat
- Your heart feels like it’s flip-flopping in your chest
There are many times when you may be aware of these types of heartbeats, such as after exercising or when something gives you a fright, and these are perfectly harmless.
Panic attacks also often lead to heart palpitations and, while your heart may not be in jeopardy, it does signal that your anxiety warrants medical attention.
If, however, you experience heart palpitations outside of an obvious cause, it could signal an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. Many arrhythmias are mild, but it’s important that we identify and monitor the problem closely, which is why you should come see us if you often experience heart palpitations.
The bottom line is that anytime you feel something out of the ordinary (a symptom) and you suspect it may have something to do with your cardiovascular health, you’d do well to investigate what your body may be trying to tell you.
To get started, contact one of our two locations in Chula Vista or National City, California.