Age-related changes are inevitable, and without proper attention, these changes can affect your heart. With heart disease being a leading cause of death in the United States, it is important to be proactive about heart health so that you can identify the warning signs of heart disease early. 

1. Chest discomfort

Chest pain probably is the most common symptom for which people go to see a cardiologist. Although chest pain can signify heart problems, it can also stem from a wide variety of issues unrelated to the heart. For example, chest pain can be due to coronary artery disease, which results from atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup, in the arteries that supply the heart. 

Usually, heart-related chest pain is located on the left side of the chest but may also be in either arm, neck, cheeks, teeth, or high in the middle of the back. Any new chest pain needs to be brought to your doctor’s attention.

2. Shortness of breath

Do you find it hard to take a deep breath? Do you get winded more easily during exercise or walking up a flight of stairs? When you lie down, do you have trouble breathing, or do you wake up in the middle of the night trying to catch your breath? Answering yes to any of these could indicate an issue.

A woman out of breath going up the stairs

Shortness of breath can be related to many heart conditions, such as heart valve disease, coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, or other structural abnormalities of the heart. While shortness of breath is a major cardiac symptom, it may be due to something else. If you notice sudden or worsening shortness of breath, talk to your doctor.

3. Palpitations

Palpitations can be defined as an awareness of the beating of the heart, and they can indicate anything from serious cardiac rhythm problems to nothing worrisome at all. Typically, an individual experiencing palpitations may describe a sensation of skipped beats, a rapid heartbeat, or lightheadedness. Palpitations can be a sign of atrial fibrillation and other abnormalities of the heart rhythm, so you need to speak with your doctor should you experience these.

4. Chronic cough

Anyone who has had a head cold knows a cough can accompany a viral illness, and often the cough takes a while to go away. Coughing helps to remove something that is irritating your lungs or getting rid of bacteria trapped in mucus. Typically, coughing will stop as soon as the irritant or infection is gone. 

A persistent cough is another matter and can be a symptom of many things. Chronic coughing can be due to acid reflux, postnasal drip, asthma, and other lung conditions. It may even be due to certain blood pressure or heart medications.

A woman coughing

A less common cause of cough is congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot handle the volume of fluid in the body. Also, some heart-related medications have a dry cough as a side effect. If your cough persists, regardless of what you think the cause is, see your physician.

5. Dizziness or lightheadedness

Dizziness and lightheadedness can be attributed to minor causes like standing up too quickly. However, lightheadedness may be due to a more serious health condition. The sensation can be due to many things, including heart rhythm problems, an abnormal heart valve, low blood pressure, or conditions that limit the body’s ability to adjust to a change in position.

If you are persistently lightheaded, it is important to be evaluated by a physician. This may include a thorough history, a physical examination, an EKG, and possibly other tests to look for possible causes. 

Some of these symptoms can be indicators of multiple conditions and may overlap, so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor can evaluate you to correctly identify the cause and condition and refer you to a specialist if necessary to prevent it from developing into something more serious. The sooner the cause of your issues is identified, the better the chances are of successful treatment. 

Berberine bark

Natural Heart Support

In addition to bringing these symptoms to your doctor’s attention, one of the most important parts of proactive healthcare is promoting heart health. One of the best ways to do this is by ensuring your body gets the nutrients it needs to support healthy heart function by maintaining proper cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Some of the top heart-healthy ingredients include:

Berberine bark extract, used in traditional medicine for centuries and has recently been identified as beneficial for heart health. Berberine bark works via several different mechanisms to promote healthy blood sugar levels, increasing glycolysis to help the body break down sugars inside cells, slowing down carbohydrate breakdown in the gut, and promoting sugar uptake into the muscles. 

♦ Bergavit®, a patented, clinically studied, standardized extract containing the main active flavonoids of bergamot juice, which is a potent ingredient that promotes HDL production and healthy cholesterol levels.

Chromium, a trace mineral that helps support the activity of pancreatic cells that work to promote the absorption of glucose and healthy blood sugar levels.

♦ CinSulin®, a purified, water-soluble cinnamon bark extract packed with polyphenols that support proper blood sugar metabolism.

Niacin, one of the most valuable nutrients for human health, supports heart health by helping to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels while also reducing oxidative stress to heart tissues.

Vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that supports arterial integrity and reduces the risk of blood clots by reducing levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can weaken arteries.

Final Thoughts

Heart disease may be the most common cause of death and disability in the world, but there is so much that you can do to keep your heart healthy. Your heart will give you signs of distress, so make sure you are paying attention. And for added support, plant-based nutrition, regular exercise, and heart-boosting nutrients will go a long way towards helping you avoid heart disease.

Dr. Heather Shenkman

Dr. Heather Shenkman is a board certified interventional cardiologist. She completed a six year program at Albany Medical College, graduating at the age of 23. She completed her residency at Henry Ford Hospital, cardiology fellowship at the University of Rochester, and interventional cardiology fellowship at the esteemed Tufts Medical Center in Boston.