Is a restriction in blood supply, generally due to factors in the blood vessels, with resultant damage or dysfunction of tissue.
Physical Signs of Heart Disease
Swelling of Your Feet and Lower Legs Retention of fluid in the feet and legs is known as peripheral edema. Edema may appear as "sock marks" at the end of the day. Mild peripheral edema is common. Your doctor may check for this sign by pressing a finger against your ankle or shin bone to see if a depression is left behind. This is called "pitting edema."
Edema may be a warning of heart failure because, when your heart is not pumping well, fluid from inside your blood vessels tends to leak out into surrounding tissues. The legs and ankles are common areas for edema because of the effects of gravity.
Male Pattern Baldness
If you watched any of the royal wedding, you might have noticed that Prince William is balding on the top of his head. This type of balding of the crown of the head in young men may be a sign of an increased risk for heart disease, says Carl E. Orringer, MD .
Several large studies have confirmed the link between baldness and heart disease. Compared to men with a full head of hair, men with crown loss have an increased risk of heart disease of about 23 percent. Men with complete loss of hair on the top of their head have an increased risk of 36 percent.
The combination of hair loss, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol pushes the risk even higher. This link may be due to too much of the male hormone testosterone, which interferes with hair growth on the head and causes hardening of the arteries. That doesn't mean you are doomed to heart failure if you are bald, but it does suggest you should be screened more carefully for other signs and symptoms of heart disease.
Yellow Bumps on Your Skin
Xanthomas are deposits of fat that build up under the skin. They may appear as small yellow bumps or as flat, wide plaques on your elbows, knees, hands, feet, or buttocks. A type of xanthoma called "xanthelasma palpebra" appears on the eyelids. These yellow, fat deposits can potentially be signs of heart disease because they may indicate high levels of fats in the blood.
"Xanthomas may be a sign of a rare, inherited type of blood disorder in which high levels of triglycerides accumulate in the blood. Xanthomas may also be a sign of increased cholesterol and they may disappear once cholesterol levels are under control," explains Orringer.
Swollen, sore, or bleeding gums are usually a sign of poor oral hygiene, but may also be an important heart disease sign. "The association between gum disease and heart disease is the real deal," says Orringer. "There is plenty of research available now that backs up this connection."
Gum disease and heart disease may be linked because they are both signs of poor circulation, or there could be common bacteria that are involved in both gum disease and plaque build-up inside coronary arteries. The link may also have something to do with the body's response to prolonged inflammation. In any case, taking better care of your teeth and gums is a good way to cut down your risk for heart disease.
Signs of Heart Failure
Heart failure means the heart is not functioning as well as it should. It doesn't mean the heart has failed. Another term for heart failure is congestive heart failure, or CHF. Heart failure gradually gets worse over time. Some early warning signs may include:
Weight gain. If your heart starts to fail and fluid starts to build up in your tissue, causing edema, you might see a sudden weight gain.
Frequent urination. Heart failure may cause decreased blood flow to the kidneys, which causes you to retain more fluid. One of the signs of this fluid may be frequent urination.
Cataracts. Although the exact connection is not known, studies show that people who have cataracts are at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. "This link is probably more of an association than a sign of heart disease," says Orringer.
Nighttime cough. "One of the signs of heart failure may be the build-up of fluid in the chest and heart when lying flat at night. This pressure can cause a nighttime cough," explains Orringer.
Remember that all these heart disease signs may have many different causes. They do not mean you have or will get heart disease. But combined with other heart disease signs and symptoms, your blood tests, and your family history, they give your doctor the best chance to find heart disease early and keep you in good health.