Unfortunately for women, the health space has traditionally been male-dominated. That means that much of the existing research in various areas, including heart health, is skewed. And that’s a huge deal, mainly because men and women don’t experience heart problems in the same way.
Men, like the actors in Hollywood, experience a heart attack in the way you’d think: sweaty red face and chest-clutching pain. You’ve seen it countless times in the movies and on television. Unfortunately, some of you might have even seen it happen to a loved one.
But with you, it is different. You might not feel the same symptoms. Further, your body might start showing earlier signs that a problem is on the horizon. Here are a few subtle signs that could indicate you’ve got a heart problem.
Swollen Legs and Ankles: You may have experienced swollen ankles in the past, and that’s totally normal. Ankles can swell for a variety of reasons, including dehydration, inactivity, or certain food choices. But if you’re noticing it regularly or that the swelling is creeping up your leg, it could signal heart troubles. Edema (swelling) is a symptom of congestive heart failure, so it’s best to notify your doctor.
Severe Headaches: Sometimes a severe headache can indicate heart troubles. Of course, headaches are rather common, especially in women, so there will be other factors to pay attention to. If the headache pain is accompanied by a stiff neck, fatigue, dizziness, or comes on strong and sudden, it might indicate there is heart trouble like a stroke or blood clot.
Exhaustion: Everybody gets tired, and there are a million-and-one things that can leave you with less energy than you’d like. But if you’re experiencing an abnormal level of fatigue—like the things you normally do are a major challenge—or you’re feeling a degree of weakness comparable to the flu, it could mean your heart is having trouble supplying your body with enough oxygenated blood. If you’re feeling exceptionally gassed and are being hit with more strange symptoms, it could be your heart.
Paying attention to these subtle signs could help warn you of an impending cardiovascular episode and seek the appropriate assistance. In the meantime, continue practicing a heart-healthy lifestyle by eating an anti-inflammatory diet, cutting back on sodium, and exercising a few days per week.