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If You Notice This on Your Body, Have Your Heart Checked

Learn to recognize the signs of serious heart conditions.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., so it's incredibly important that you don't ignore any possible signs of heart problems. "It's very important that you not become your own doctor — but let somebody else be your doctor," says cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD. "If you have noticed that you are shorter of breath with regular activity, you should go to your general doctor or your cardiologist. It depends on the severity and the acuteness — if it has started recently or not." Here are five signs of heart issues you should never ignore, doctors say. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Swelling In the Ankles and Feet

older woman with leg pain
Shutterstock / AstroStar

Swollen ankles and feet could be an early sign of heart failure. "The backup of blood waiting to get into the heart leads to increasing pressure in the veins draining into the heart," says cardiologist Lee Goldberg, MD. "As the pressure in the veins increases, fluid is pushed out into the tissues leading to swelling or edema."


Jaw and Neck Pain

Young woman touching painful neck, sore throat for flu, cold and infection.

When pain starts to radiate from the chest to the jaw and neck, see a doctor. "Most people know their bodies better than any doctor does. In general, if you constantly feel something isn't 'right' or isn't what you're used to, that warrants medical attention," says Parag Joshi, M.D., cardiology fellow with the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.

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Erectile Dysfunction

Sad man sitting on a bed, girlfriend in the background.

Did you know ED could be a symptom of heart disease? "A problem with your blood vessels in one area of the body is associated with blood vessel problems in another area," says Dr. Joshi.

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Cardiac Fatigue

Sick young woman lying in the bed covered with blanket

Everyone gets tired—but if you are dealing with chronic fatigue, don't ignore it. "We're not talking about global fatigue like you feel tired at the end of the day," says Dr. Cho. "We're not talking about you needing to go take a nap at 5 o'clock. We're talking about you were able to walk up a couple of flights of stairs — and now you can barely walk up one. Or you can't walk upstairs without feeling severe fatigue." 

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Unhealthy Gums and Teeth

Mature woman feeling strong pain, toothache.

Is it time to see the dentist? Studies show that unhealthy teeth and gums can lead to dangerous inflammation, which could in turn raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes. "The bacteria that live in your mouth when you have gum disease can cross into your bloodstream, enter the heart, and directly infect the vulnerable heart valves," says Marietta Ambrose, MD, MPH, FACC, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. "That's especially concerning in our patients who have artificial heart valves."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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