1. Fatigue appears easily during any physical activity If running a mile daily suddenly starts feeling exhausting and it still feels like that even after a good night’s sleep, or if your fatigue is similar to what you feel when coming down with a severe flu, but have no other flu symptoms, you should probably see your doctor. You might be experiencing the first symptom of heart problems.

2. Performance issues in the bedroom? Anxiety, depression or prolonged stress can all contribute to causing erectile disfunction, but blocked heart arteries can also be an important factor in your penis not getting enough blood when needed. Impeded blood flow can have two main reasons – atherosclerosis (your blood vessels harden and narrow) and endothelial dysfunction (your blood vessels don’t relax properly). It’s been shown that erectile dysfunction usually precedes the onset of heart troubles by at least two years, so don’t ignore this sign.

3. High blood pressure A constantly higher than normal blood pressure can cause irreversible damage in time, if left unchecked. With high blood pressure, both your heart and blood vessels are working overtime, but less efficiently than they should. You might think that you will be able to recognize high blood pressure when it happens, but that is rarely the case. To avoid living with this condition for long, it is a good idea to regularly check your blood pressure and see a doctor if its values are higher than normal for a longer period of time.

4. A sudden and persistent cough Persistent coughing fits might point to something else than just a nasty cold, especially if taking cough suppressants don’t alleviate the symptoms. These coughing fits can also be caused by fluid leaking into your lungs from your backed-up blood vessels. That happens when the heart does not properly pump the blood. This condition can also cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, if the situation goes untreated for a long time.

5. Trouble breathing while asleep If you wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air, you probably suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Left unchecked, it can raise the risk of a heart attack or heart arrhythmia (usually atrial fibrillation). When you have an apnea episode, your blood oxygen level falls and, as an emergency measure, your body will tighten the blood vessels to ensure correct oxygen flow to the heart and brain, thus causing shortness of breath. It is a good idea to go in for some extensive heart and blood flow tests, just to be on the safe side.

6. No or little hair on the legs Peripheral arterial disease (the chronic narrowing of peripheral arteries) can also lead to less hair on the legs because the hair follicles are not properly irrigated with blood and don’t get enough oxygen and nutrients to function normally.

7. Swollen legs and feet If your blood circulation is slow because the heart is not circulating your blood efficiently, the veins in your extremities (and sometimes even in the scrotum) get backed up with fluid and start pushing it into the adjacent tissues, causing a liquid build-up in unlikely places. That is why, if you notice that your feet, legs, abdomen or even scrotum swell up without a clear cause, the problem might just be with your heart. You can press the swollen tissue, and if it stays depressed, it is clearly a sign of liquid build-up.

8. Neck and/or jaw pain Contrary to popular belief, chest pains are not necessarily the first sign of heart trouble. Especially in women, pain caused by angina (which manifests when the heart is not correctly irrigated with oxygen-rich blood) can radiate to the neck, jaw, back or shoulders instead of manifesting in the chest.

9. Shortness of breath after little effort Did you notice that an effort that you were usually able to do without much fuss now leaves you without breath? It might be time to see a doctor. It is better to check then to wait for a heart attack. Also, it is also a good idea to figure out what is “normal” for your body, so you are able to discern something that is not normal when and if it occurs.

10. Swollen gums Gum disease (periodontal disease) is a nasty business. It causes a lot of inflammation not only in the mouth but all over the body. A lot of inflammation is never good for the body and, in this case, it can start affecting the health of the heart.

11. Heart palpitations Occasional heart palpitations can appear due to various situations or stressors and they are nothing to be worried about. When they become more frequent though, you should seriously consider seeing a doctor, because it means something is off with your heart or something is causing your heart to act that way. No matter the cause, you need to check it out, to avoid getting to the heart disease stage.

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Written by Rachel Wilson

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