7 Silent Signs You May Have Clogged Arteries
These surprising clues can point to clogged arteries and underlying heart disease, according to Joel K. Kahn, MD.
How common are clogged arteries?
Each year in the United States, more than 700,000 people suffer a heart attack, and almost 400,000 people die of coronary heart disease (CHD). Preventing heart disease in patients is my main goal, but early detection is the next best thing. This can lead to changes in lifestyle and medical therapies that can delay or deny the onset of a heart attack; almost 80 percent of heart disease is preventable with lifestyle changes. Many of my patients are shocked to learn about the following clues to underlying clogged arteries and heart disease.
Erectile dysfunction (ED)
Men have a built-in warning system for silent CHD. When achieving an erection is difficult or impossible, it can be a sign of clogged arteries in the pelvis that presents before a heart attack hits. There are, on average, three to five years between the onset of ED and the finding of CHD, which is plenty of time to detect and to work on preventing heart issues. If you and your partner are worried about sexual performance, look for and treat root causes of diseased arteries before just popping a blue pill.
In a comprehensive new study of almost 37,000 men, severe baldness at the crown of the head strongly predicted the presence of silent CHD at any age. In a separate study of more than 7,000 people (including over 4,000 women), moderate to severe baldness doubled the risk of dying from heart disease in both sexes. Make sure you know these 20 foods that can help unclog arteries.
One of the stranger markers, a crease in your earlobe (specifically, an angled crease in the ear that runs diagonally from the canal to the lower edge of the earlobe) has been mentioned in medical research reports as a sign of silent CHD for decades. The ear crease may result from poor circulation, including in arteries in the heart. Although some medical professionals have argued that a crease is just a general sign of aging, researchers used the most sophisticated CT scan method to measure silent CHD and found that ear crease predicted heart disease even after the authors accounted for other risk factors, such as age and smoking.
Calf pain when you walk
This is known as claudication (from the Latin for “to limp”). Atherosclerosis can block leg arteries, particularly in smokers, before CHD is diagnosed. This symptom requires an evaluation without delay. Your doctor will examine the pulses in your legs and perform simple measurements of leg blood pressure and blood flow to confirm a diagnosis of poor circulation. It is critical that heart disease be diagnosed as early as possible because there are many dietary and medical treatments that can help reverse the issue. Some of my patients took these early clues to heart. I advised them to eat more plant-based foods and fewer animal products and to start a walking program. Their calf pain completely resolved within weeks and has not recurred for years. Anyone with any of the above signs of silent CHD should know his or her numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting glucose). Ask your doctor if you should be checked for heart disease with an EKG, a coronary calcium CT imaging, or an exercise stress testing. To borrow from Ben Franklin, an ounce of prevention (plus a bowl of kale) is worth a pound of cure. Don’t miss these things that cardiologists do to protect their own hearts.
A tight jaw
This symptom of clogged arteries occurs more often in women, but men should be aware of it, too. According to the Harvard Medical School, aches and pains in the jaw and neck are common symptoms of angina, which is the discomfort that comes as a result of poor blood flow to part of the heart. The pain occurs because the main nerve that carries pain signals from the heart, the vagus nerve, is in constant contact with the neck, jaw, head, and left arm. Visit your doctor to find out if your jaw pain is the result of something benign, such are teeth grinding, or if it’s something you’ll want to monitor with caution.
Lower back pain
Your lower back pain might not be a simple sign of aging muscles. According to the Physicians Community for Responsible Medicine, the lower back is also often one of the first parts of the body to accumulate plaque. You’ll feel pain because the reduced blood flow to the area can weaken the disks that cushion the vertebrae. Here are 11 more signs that your heart is in trouble.
A smoking habit
As we all know by now, smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. And according to WebMD, quitting is one of the best things you can do to decrease your chance of CHD. Next, learn the 25 heart-health secrets cardiologists wish you knew.