Heart disease can strike anyone, but men are especially vulnerable. It’s one of the leading causes of death for men in many countries, including the US. Heart disease can affect how your heart pumps blood, beats, or functions. It can lead to serious complications such as heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. But how do you know if you have heart disease or are at risk of getting it? And what can you do to prevent it or manage it if you already have it?
You may think that heart disease would have obvious symptoms, but that’s not always the case. Many men don’t notice any signs until they have a major event like a heart attack. However, there are some clues that can alert you to potential problems before they become life-threatening. Here are some of the most common signs of heart disease in men:
- Chest pain or discomfort. This is the number one sign for both men and women. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, or fullness in your chest. It may spread to your arm, jaw, or back. It can be caused by different conditions such as angina (chest pain due to reduced blood flow to the heart), heart attack (when a blood clot blocks a coronary artery), or aortic dissection (when the inner layer of the aorta tears).
- Shortness of breath. This can happen when your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. You may feel breathless during physical activity or even at rest. This can also be a sign of heart failure (when your heart can’t pump efficiently).
- Heart palpitations. These are feelings of a fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat. They can be caused by arrhythmias (abnormal electrical impulses in the heart). Some arrhythmias are harmless, but others can be dangerous and need treatment.
- Loss of consciousness or dizziness. These can happen when your heart can’t deliver enough blood and oxygen to your brain. They can be caused by a drop in blood pressure, a slow or fast heartbeat, or a blockage in a blood vessel.
- Other signs and symptoms. These may include changes in your extremities (such as pain, swelling, tingling, numbness, coldness, and weakness), extreme fatigue, dry cough, fever, and skin rashes.
If you experience any of these signs, especially if you have risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity, or family history of heart disease, you should seek medical help right away. Don’t ignore them or think they are something else.
The good news is that you can prevent or manage heart disease by making some lifestyle changes and taking prescribed medications. Here are some tips on how to keep your heart healthy:
- Eat a balanced diet that is low in saturated fat, salt, and added sugar. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
- Exercise regularly for at least 150 minutes per week. Choose activities that you enjoy and that raise your heart rate and make you sweat.
- Manage stress by finding healthy ways to cope with it. Try meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, hobbies, or talking to someone you trust.
- Quit smoking if you are a smoker. Smoking damages your blood vessels and increases your risk of heart disease and other health problems.
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure and interfere with your medications.
- Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor. They can help lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, or prevent blood clots.
Heart disease is not something to take lightly. It can affect your quality of life and shorten your lifespan. But by being aware of the signs and symptoms of heart disease in men and taking steps to prevent it or treat it if you have it, you can protect your heart and live longer and healthier.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Take care of your heart today.