NZ Woman's Weekly

Heart problems: symptoms and causes

Heart problems: symptoms and causes

Chest pains can be a clear sign of heart problems, but there are some other symptoms of cardiovascular issues that are not quite so obvious.

Flu you can’t shake
Flu-like symptoms that don’t go away after a few days may not be due to a virus, but could in fact be the result of your heart struggling to work effectively. If you are feeling tired and breathless you may think it’s a bug but it could be down to your heart. If it is the flu you would most likely also have joint pain. Having the flu can also be linked to myocarditis, a viral infection that leads to inflammation and can damage the heart. You may think you’ve had an unusually long bout of the flu but it could be an
inflammation in the heart. Symptoms include chest pain, fever, an irregular heart beat and shortness of breath.

Not feeling ‘with it’
If you’re feeling a bit spaced out and dizzy, a heart problem could be to blame. Arrhythmia is a disease that disturbs the normal electrical activity of your heart, causing it to beat too slow, too fast or erratically. It makes your blood pressure drop so your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, and this can leave you feeling “out of it”. If you have other symptoms of low blood pressure, such as feeling lightheaded when you get up after lying or sitting down, it pays to talk to your doctor and get them to check your heart beat for irregularity.

Blue fingernails
If your fingernails (and your fingers) appear to be tinged blue, this may be a sign that blood is not being pumped efficiently around your body, and a heart problem could be the cause. You should always see your doctor if you notice your fingers and fingernails look blue (it can also be a sign of several other conditions such as lung and Raynaud’s disease).

Leg pain
Cramping pain in your calves when you walk could be a sign that the arteries in your legs are blocked. It may clear up after five to 10 minutes of rest but in fact it may mean you have vascular disease in your legs, which means a greater chance of having it in other parts of the body, including the heart.

Lumpy hands
Yellow or skin-coloured lumps on hands or ankles may mean familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) which makes it difficult for your body to remove LDL cholesterol. This is bad for your heart. FH generally causes no obvious symptoms but some people get lumps above their heels or below their knuckles.

Toothache when you walk
If you notice toothache when you exert yourself – for example when you walk up a hill – that passes once you rest, you may have angina. The nerves coming out of the heart can transmit pain to different parts of the body other than the chest, and pain in the jaw that makes your teeth hurt can originate from heart problems.

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