WebMD is a blessing and a curse. It is convenient that now we can google any of the million health and medical questions we might have, but as a lot of symptoms generate a whole variety of “diagnoses,” people are often led in the wrong direction.
Millions of people will continue to turn to sites like Mayo Clinic. The top health inquiries and symptoms that were sent to the site in 2017, involved heart health.
Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, the chief medical editor of Mayo Clinic's website, shared that in 2017, more than 350 million online visitors stopped by Mayo Clinic and 18 million searched heart-health related symptoms and inquiries.
"We really rely on our medical experts who provide the review of the content because you don't want to get misleading or inaccurate information," says Dr. Pruthi. "And mayoclinic.org is one of the No. 1 rated websites for health information."
Diabetes earns the number 1 spot as the most searched on Mayo Clinic’s website, with Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Pneumonia, and Hypertension. Dr. Pruthi said the most searched medical questions were: "How to lower blood pressure?"; "How to lower cholesterol?”; and “What is normal blood pressure?”
Dr. Pruthi says it's important to get online information from a trusted source.
She also said that not all heart problems come with clear warning signs, and that many people don’t know when something is wrong with their heart.
There isn’t always severe chest pain or dramatic falling-to-the-floor while clutching your chest. Some heart symptoms don’t even happen in your chest.
The more risk factors you have, the more you should be concerned about anything that might be heart-related. These risk factors include: being 60-years or older, overweight, diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. But those aren’t the only qualifiers for heart-health concern.
Charles Chambers, MD, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute, recommends that “if you’re not sure, get it checked out.” However, here are some signs and symptoms you might be ignoring:
1. You Often Reach For Tums
Symptoms like nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or stomach pain.
Some people have these symptoms during a heart attack, and some might even vomit.
Women are more likely to report this type of symptom than men are, and many confuse it for pregnancy.
Of course, you can have an upset stomach for many reasons that have nothing to do with your heart, which makes it such a silent killer.
2. Spreading Pain
Especially pain that spreads to the arm. This classic heart attack symptom is one that is still overlooked. The pain radiates down the left side of the body, because it starts at the chest and moves outward.
Chambers said he has “had some patients who have mainly arm pain that turned out to be heart attacks."
3. Lightheadedness or Dizziness
Not eating or drinking enough, getting up too fast, and many other things can make you lose your balance. Feeling faint can come from a lot of thing, but if you suddenly feel unsteady, call a doctor if it persists. Especially if you also have chest discomfort or shortness of breath, call them right away.
It could mean your blood pressure has dropped because your heart isn't able to pump the way it should.
4. Throat or Jaw Pain
By itself, throat or jaw pain probably isn't heart related. It could be TMJ, caused by a muscular issue, a cold, or a sinus problem.
But if you have pain or pressure in the center of your chest that spreads up into your throat or jaw, it could be a sign of a heart attack.
5. Swollen Legs, Feet, and Ankles
Swelling could be a sign that your heart doesn’t pump blood as effectively as it should. When the heart can't pump fast enough, blood backs up in the veins which causes bloating.
Heart failure can also lead to the kidneys trying hard to remove extra water and sodium from the body. This also can cause bloating.
6. Sleep Habits: Snoring and/or Irregular Heart Beat
It’s normal to snore a little while you snooze, but loud snorers that gasp or choke usually are victims of sleep apnea. Because they stop breathing for brief seconds several times (sometimes hours) throughout the night, you have extra stress on your heart.
Concerning an irregular heartbeat, there are abnormalities that could be harmless, or very dangerous.
It's normal for your heart to race when you are nervous or excited, but if your heart is beating out of time for more than just a few seconds, or if it happens often, tell your doctor.
In many cases it can be from too much caffeine or not enough sleep, but occasionally, it could signal a condition called atrial fibrillation that needs treatment. Chat with the doc to get it sorted out.
Breaking out in a cold sweat for no obvious reason could signal a heart attack. If this happens along with any of these other symptoms, call 911 to get to a hospital right away. Don’t drive yourself.
8. A Cough That Won’t Quit
Coughing on its own isn't a sign of heart trouble, but a long-lasting one is. If you have heart disease or know you're at risk, your cough could be a sign of heart failure.
If you have a long-lasting cough that produces a white or pink mucus, your heart can't keep up with the body, and your blood is leaking back into the lungs.
Ask your doctor to check on what’s causing your cough.
9. You Exhaust Easily
If climbing the stairs or carrying groceries from the car to your house makes you feel suddenly winded and tired, make an appointment to see your doctor.
These types of significant changes are more important to doctors than every little ache and pain you might be feeling.
Especially for women, unexplained weakness, sometimes for days at a time, can be a symptom of heart disease.
10. Chest Discomfort
Chest discomfort is the most common sign of heart danger. If you have a blocked artery or are having a heart attack, you may feel pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest.
However, keep in mind you can have heart problems, even a heart attack, without chest pain. This is particularly common amongst women.
"Everyone has a different word for that feeling," Chambers says. "Some people say it's like an elephant is sitting on them. Other people say it's like a pinching or burning."
The feeling usually lasts longer than a few minutes and doesn’t only happen when you’re doing something physical. It can happen when you're at rest.
Also, if it's just a very brief pain, or if it's a spot that hurts more when you touch or push on it, it's probably not your heart. Chamber recommends you still get it checked out. “If the symptoms are more severe and don’t go away after a few minutes, you should call 911,” he said.