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Sure Signs Your Heart is Weaker Than it Should Be

Learn five signs that indicate your heart is in trouble. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

It's well known that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, but did you know a large number of cases are preventable? According to the Cleveland Clinic, "Ninety percent of the nearly 18 million heart disease cases worldwide could be prevented by people adopting a healthier diet, doing regular exercise, and not smoking." Leslie Cho, M.D., Section Head for Preventive Cardiology and Cardiac Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic said. "Even if a person has a family history of heart disease, we can still prevent and treat heart disease thanks to incredible advances in medicine." Knowing the signs of heart trouble is vital and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with  Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who shares signals to watch out for and what to know about heart disease. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About Heart Disease

doctor holding heart

Dr. Mitchell tells us, "The heart is one of the essential organs in the human body, yet it is often taken for granted. The heart pumps blood around the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to cells and removing toxins. It also plays a role in regulating blood pressure and maintaining a regular heartbeat. In short, the heart is essential for life. Sadly, the heart is also at risk of disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for around one in four deaths. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking are all significant risk factors for heart disease. That's why it's so important to be aware of your heart health and make lifestyle choices that reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, and managing stress are good ways to keep your heart healthy. So next time you think about your health, don't forget about your heart. It's time to start taking care of this vital organ."


How to Tell How Strong Your Heart Is

woman holding heart

Dr. Mitchell explains, "A human heart is said to beat an average of 2.5 billion times in a lifetime. It works day and night, tirelessly pumping blood throughout the body. But how do you know how strong your heart should be? While many factors contribute to cardiovascular health, a few key indicators can give you a general idea of how strong your heart should be. First, check your pulse. A healthy resting heart rate should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute. You can also monitor your blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mmHg. Finally, pay attention to your energy levels. If you're fired or short of breath, it could be a sign that your heart isn't functioning as well as it should. By keeping an eye on these indicators, you can better understand how strong your heart should be."


Shortness Of Breath

Asian young woman feeling discomfort as suffering from heartburn holding chest with closed eyes and sitting with folded legs on couch at home.

"Shortness of breath, or dyspnea, is a common symptom of heart failure," says Dr. Mitchell. "The heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body's oxygen needs. This can cause fluid to build up in the lungs, making breathing difficult. In some cases, severe heart failure can lead to respiratory failure, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. While shortness of breath can be caused by other conditions, such as asthma or anxiety, it is essential to see a doctor if you experience this symptom, as it could be a sign of a severe underlying problem.

When you lie down, gravity causes your blood to settle in the lower part of your body. This is why you may feel lightheaded or dizzy when you stand up after lying down. The same thing can happen with your breathing. When you lie down, the air in your lungs settles at the bottom of your lungs. This makes it harder for the air to reach the top of your lungs. As a result, you may start to experience shortness of breath. While this is usually not a cause for concern, it can signify a more serious problem, such as heart failure."


Swelling In Your Limbs

woman hands holding and massage her calf, suffering from calf pain

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Swelling the hands and feet is a sign of something wrong with your heart because it is a symptom of congestive heart failure. When the heart can't pump blood effectively, the body's fluid backs up into the veins and causes them to swell. The veins in the hands and feet are particularly susceptible to this because they are relatively close to the skin's surface. In addition, gravity pulls the fluid downward, causing even more swelling in the lower extremities. If you notice that your hands or feet are swollen, it's essential to see a doctor so that they can determine the cause and offer treatment. Left untreated, congestive heart failure can be fatal. Therefore, swelling of the hands and feet should not be ignored."




Dr. Mitchell explains, "Dizziness is a common symptom caused by various factors, ranging from dehydration to blood sugar drops. However, it could be a sign of a heart condition if you experience dizziness along with other symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, or an irregular heartbeat. In some cases, dizziness can be caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which restricts blood flow to the heart. When this happens, the heart has to work harder to pump blood, and the lack of oxygen can cause lightheadedness and dizziness."


Irregular Heart Beat

Dr. Mitchell tells us, "An irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia, is a condition in which the heart beats too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. While a certain amount of arrhythmia is considered normal, having an irregular heartbeat can signal that something is wrong with your heart. Arrhythmias can be caused by various factors, including heart disease, stress, smoking, drug abuse, and electrolyte imbalances. Occasionally, arrhythmias can lead to more severe problems such as stroke or heart failure."


Trouble Concentrating

man massaging nose bridge, taking glasses off, having blurry vision or dizziness

"One of the most common symptoms of heart disease is trouble concentrating," Dr. Mitchell states. "When the heart isn't pumping enough blood, the body doesn't get the oxygen it needs to function correctly. This can lead to fatigue, brain fog, and difficulty paying attention. If you're noticing that you're having more trouble concentrating than usual, you must see a doctor. While trouble concentrating can be a sign of many health problems, it's often an early warning sign of heart disease. If caught early, heart disease is much easier to treat. So if you're having trouble focusing, don't ignore it—make an appointment with your doctor today."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather