Heart Disease

Signs of Heart Disease in Your Future

The Centers for Disease Control considers cardiovascular disease the “leading killer of Americans.” That’s a pretty serious and scary description, especially consider that there’s often little indication of a health issue leading up to a heart attack.

On top of the most common indicators of heart trouble—high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, weight, age (60+ years), and underlying health conditions like diabetes—several other, lesser known, factors can forecast heart issues in your future…

1. Dizziness Upon Standing

You may not be familiar with the term Orthostatic Hypotension. However this overwhelming light-headedness, which can span a few minutes, strikes certain individuals when they rise a little too quickly from a seated or prone position.

According to data from the University of North Carolina, this type of blood flow issue can predict cardiovascular failure in the future. In fact, the university research concludes that orthostatic hypotension can increase the risk of heart failure event in later life by up to 54-percent.

2. Achy Arms

Consider this warning from the American Heart Association (AHA): heart attack symptoms can span from minor, ambiguous, and even be nonexistent. That’s why if you experience oddly minor aches or pains in the arms, you may suffer a heart attack down the road.

Research from the AHA points out that achy or fatigued arm muscles that mimic the sensation of lifting a too heavy object can strike in the months prior to a heart attack. This ache can be due to a blockage in the circumflex artery.

3. How Long is Your Ring Finger?

You likely would never associate the length of your ring finger with your heart disease risk. However, scientists from the University of Liverpool consider short ring fingers a sign of future heart trouble.

The U.K. research explains that individuals with longer ring fingers (longer than the pointer finger) typically have a decreased risk of heart problems due to higher fetal testosterone exposure. However, if your ring finger is the same length or shorter than your pointer digit, the risk of heart disease is considered higher once you reach 40+ years.

4. Earlobe Creases

Although it sounds a little bizarre, researchers from the Department of Medicine, at University of Pennsylvania Hospital can judge your future risk of coronary artery disease just by taking a peek at your ear lobes. Strange as it sounds, the researchers note a telltale crease in one or both lobes—you may suffer future heart troubles.

The distinctive lobe(s) wrinkle, known as Frank’s Sign (after Sanders T. Frank, the man who identified the link back in 1973), is considered a telltale sign of an arterial block and prospective cardiovascular issues.

5. Exercise Yawns

Why do we yawn? Science tells us that we yawn to oxygenate the blood while cooling the brain. It makes sense then that a yawn or two may escape during strenuous exercise on sunny day, right?

Not so fast, according to a study from State University of New York at Albany (SUNY Albany), which shows the odd yawn is perfectly fine, but chronic yawns during exercise can indicate a wonky ticker. For instance, circulatory blocks can cause the body’s cooling system and heart to inefficient and those yawns may signal future issues with the heart.

6. Foul Breath

Bad breath is embarrassing. Often a whole pack of gum can’t disguise that garlicky slice of pizza you gobbled down at lunch. However, your heart—along with your co-workers—may be suffering the consequences of your foul breath.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, bad breath is a sign of gum disease, and gum disease causes inflammation and, eventually, cardiovascular disease. So if you avoid garlic and still suffer chronic bad breath, it may be time to book an appointment with your dentist, followed by your doctor.

7. Lack of Vitamin D

Vitamin D has many health benefits, and have a deficiency could cause many serious illnesses and conditions. Research conducted at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that stroke patients with significant low vitamin D were more prevalent than those with normal levels of vitamin D. Just another reason to spend more time out in the sun during those summer months!

8. Air Pollution

We’ve known for a while that air pollution is not healthy. While it seems obvious that it would affect our breathing and lungs, it also lowers good cholesterol.

A study published in the Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, outlined that traffic-related pollution contains higher amounts of black carbon which has been shown to lower HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol after a prolonged period of time.

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9. Having 4 Or More Pregnancies

As if the pain of childbirth isn’t enough, having multiple pregnancies can increase your risk of heart disease. Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts found a correlation in the data in a study from the Women’s Health Study between the number of pregnancies a woman has and atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm that could lead to stroke). Women who had four or more pregnancies were 30-50% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than those without any pregnancies.

10. Your (Lack Of) Height

Being short has more disadvantages than not being about to reach anything on the top shelf. A study done by the British Heart Foundation suggests that the genes that make people short, may also control other risk factors like cholesterol levels. This is known as a non-modifiable risk factor, because as much as we wish we could be taller – we simply cannot change our height.

11. Fatty Bumps

Another strange indicator of potential future heart problems is fatty bumps, medically referred to as xanthomas. They can develop in various areas of the body, such as the buttocks, knees, elbows, or eyelids. Although the bumps themselves do not pose any health concerns, those who most commonly develop them have a genetic disease known as familial hypercholesterolemia, which causes high levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol.

In fact, that’s what the fatty bumps are made of—excess deposits of LDL cholesterol. In addition to raising “bad” cholesterol, xanthomas cause increased risk of heart disease because they can form in areas you can’t see with the naked eye, most dangerously the arteries that connect to the heart.

12. Clubbed Fingernails

Have you noticed lately that your fingernails have become thicker and wider in shape? It may be an indication of heart disease. This condition is known as digital clubbing—or, less commonly, Hippocratic fingers—and tends to occur on both hands, although it does not usually cause any pain.

CNN explains that the reason clubbed fingers are indicative of heart problems is because “oxygenated blood is not reaching the fingers properly and so the cells produce a ‘factor’ that promotes growth to try and rectify the issue,” hence the change in shape. Be sure to keep an eye on your nail growth and report any visible changes to your physician.

13. Ring Around the Iris

The eyes can tell a great deal about a person’s health, including whether or not they are at risk of developing heart disease. In some people, a grey ring or halo may develop around the outside of their iris.

This condition is known as arcus senilis and occurs due to fat deposits. But because it doesn’t interfere with vision, it can be easily dismissed. It is also very common, affecting approximately 45 percent of people 40 and older, and 70 percent of those above 60.

14. Poor Oral Health

Your oral health, or lack thereof, can also serve as an important indicator of whether your heart is in trouble. Bad bacteria in the mouth not only cause your gums to become inflamed and your teeth to fall out, but it can “enter the bloodstream from the mouth and cause inflammation in the blood vessels, which can lead to cardiovascular disease,” says CNN.

Prevention adds that suffering from a specific type of tooth infection, known a root tip infection or apical periodontitis, is also likely to increase your risk of heart disease if it’s left untreated. The reason? Because “tooth infections like this are caused by an inflammatory disease that also causes low-grade inflammation in other parts of the body,” and such inflammation is considered a risk factor for heart disease.

15. Not Having Acne as a Teenager

Acne is an embarrassing part of adolescence, but after hearing this you may suddenly be thankful you experienced it. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that having acne as a teenager decreases a person’s risk of coronary heart disease by a whopping 33 percent!

Although high levels of the hormone testosterone is what causes acne to occur during teen years, it is also what “seems to protect you from heart disease later in life,” says Prevention. So while you may have been envious of classmates who had perfect skin while yours was breaking out, their risk of heart disease is higher as a result.


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.