How Heart Conditions Affect the Whole Body
Your heart is responsible for keeping every one of your organs in shape. That means that complications with the heart can be felt all over the body. At Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, we’re here to help you recognize and fight the signs of heart disease. Stay one step ahead of heart disease with Modern Heart and Vascular.
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease refers to a collection of cardiovascular diseases that includes blood vessel diseases, heart rhythm problems, heart defects, valve diseases and infections. While heart disease refers to a vast collection of diagnoses and symptoms, there are measures you can take to altogether minimize your chances of developing noncongenital heart disease.
Heart disease may manifest in the following symptoms in the rest of your body:
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness and dizziness
- Fast, slow or abnormal heart rates
- Pain, pressure or tightness of the chest (angina)
- Pain in the back, upper abdomen, neck, throat and jaw
- Coldness or numbness in limbs due to poor blood circulation
The leading cause of heart disease is the buildup of fatty plaques inside your arteries. This buildup can cause heart arrhythmia as well as cyanosis and poor circulation due to the difficulty of pumping blood through narrow arteries. Coronary artery diseases can be exacerbated by poor diets, smoking, sedentary lifestyles, drug abuse, high blood pressure and stress.
How Heart Disease Affects the Body
While chest and back pain might be the most well-known heart disease symptoms, there are many other symptoms of heart problems around the body. Heart disease can cause everything from chronic fatigue and muscle weakness to shortness of breath. Heart disease may present itself as symptoms in the following organ systems:
1. Respiratory System
Since the heart and lungs work together so closely, heart disease is certain to manifest as respiratory symptoms. When oxygen passes from the lungs to the heart, obstructions or poor pumping surrounding the heart can greatly impact breathing and lead to a lack of oxygen throughout the whole body. As a result, you may develop cyanosis, which causes your skin to have a pale or bluish hue. Cyanosis is a sign the oxygen bound to the hemoglobin in your blood has become low enough that you require medical assistance.
If breathing becomes a challenge, it may be from undue stress being placed upon the heart. Breathing becomes more and more difficult as heart disease progresses due to a backup of fluid passing into the tissues surrounding the heart and lungs. In the beginning stages of heart disease, you may experience shortness of breath after exercising, while getting dressed or even while walking across the room. A rapid heartbeat — or tachycardia — may also cause shortness of breath and increase chances of fainting.
A sudden feeling of shortness of breath is indicative of a heart attack. When a heart attack happens, the main arteries that distribute blood to the heart become blocked and cause breathing to become much more difficult. If you ever experience sudden shortness of breath and chest pain, it’s essential to get immediate medical care and alert your doctor. You should also seek immediate medical attention if you have chest pain and breathlessness that worsens while lying down.
One of the most obvious and visible signs of heart disease is extreme fatigue and swelling in the extremities. You may also experience aching, cramping and numbness in your calves as you walk, which is indicative of peripheral vascular disease (PVD) or overall poor circulation. PVD can be caused or exacerbated by high cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.
3. Digestive System
The symptoms of heart disease may manifest in the digestive tract in the form of intense nausea and bloating. This form of heart-related nausea and vomiting is called intestinal angina and usually occurs within the first two hours after eating a meal. Intestinal angina causes dull cramping sensations in the stomach as well as in the back. Women are more likely to report intestinal angina and may experience vomiting alongside their chest pain.
If the heart has begun deteriorating, an individual may begin producing high levels of hydrochloric acid (HCl) that causes intense nausea and ulcers. Increased HCl production inhibits the body’s ability to digest and process nutrients and may lead to overall weight loss.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Individuals of all ages and lifestyles can make small changes in their life to reduce their risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends making the following changes to better your heart health:
- Stop tobacco consumption: If you smoke, the number one thing you can do to decrease your risk of having a heart attack immediately is to quit smoking. After just one day of quitting, your heart attack risk begins to decrease and your blood oxygen begins to rise.
- Increase physical activity: You can significantly decrease your risk of heart disease by participating in regular moderate or vigorous physical activity. Over time, physical activity lowers your body’s cholesterol levels, blood pressure and heart rate.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables: A diet that’s high in fruit and vegetables and low in fatty foods will prevent the formation of plaques in your arteries and allow for better circulation throughout your body. A healthy diet can decrease your body’s overall cholesterol, risk of diabetes, blood pressure and BMI.
- Reduce alcohol consumption: Frequent alcohol consumption raises blood pressure and your risk for cardiomyopathy and stroke. By decreasing alcohol consumption, you reduce your body’s triglycerides and blood pressure.
- Minimize stress: Stress significantly impacts blood pressure and can increase your risk of a heart attack. By decreasing and managing your stress levels, you can reduce the chance of having a heart attack.
Check on Your Heart With Modern Heart and Vascular
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above — whether they’re sudden or intermittent — it’s time to book an appointment with a cardiologist. At Modern Heart and Vascular of Texas, we’re focused on preventing heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. We’re here to help you make healthy choices, and we want to help our patients avoid surgery and medication whenever possible.
We can provide patients same-day appointments and accept medicare and most major insurance companies. Contact us online today to learn more about heart disease or schedule an appointment. If you’d like to learn more about our practice, read our providers’ bios.
*This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.