Your arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Arteries supply essential oxygen to your organs, muscles, and tissues, but a number of common health conditions can limit the way your arteries function.
Arterial health problems can trigger heart disease and life-threatening emergencies, such as heart attack and stroke. In fact, coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in the United States and the leading cause of death.
The good news? You can take care of your heart and arteries by learning how to recognize the signs of potential health problems before they get worse.
Farhad Aduli, MD, FACC, and our team at Louisiana Heart and Vascular specialize in cardiology consultations and heart care for people of all ages. Read on to learn some of the signs that could indicate an arterial health problem.
1. Chest pain
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Chest pain can feel like a dull, constant ache, a sharp, shooting pain, or almost anything in between.
Experiencing chest pain can be scary, but it doesn’t automatically mean you’re having a heart attack. It could indicate an acute condition, such as heartburn, but it could also indicate something more serious. One of the only early symptoms of coronary artery disease is chest pain.
If you have chest pain, don’t ignore it. Dr. Aduli and our team provide comprehensive cardiac evaluations, such as echocardiograms and stress testing, which can determine if you have an underlying heart or arterial condition.
2. Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath is a common symptom of arterial and heart problems. Your blood vessels, heart, and lungs are all closely connected, and experiencing shortness of breath is an indication that you should have a cardiac evaluation.
Heart disease (including coronary artery disease), atrial fibrillation, and heart failure can all cause shortness of breath. If you have a heart condition that’s causing shortness of breath, you might also experience dizziness, lightheadedness, or fatigue.
3. Muscle cramps
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is another common arterial condition, and it’s similar to coronary artery disease. Both conditions develop when arteries get narrower, but PAD primarily affects the legs.
Leg pain and muscle cramps could be a sign of claudication, a complication of PAD. Pain typically develops with activity and goes away after a few minutes of rest. The pain and cramping can range from mild to severe, and you might also notice decreased circulation or numbness in your legs.
4. High cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that’s found in your blood. You need a certain amount of cholesterol for healthy cells, but too much cholesterol can build up inside your arteries and restrict blood flow.
A diagnosis of high cholesterol is a sign that you’re at risk for other arterial health problems. While having high cholesterol on its own doesn’t mean you have heart disease, it does increase your risk of developing it. Taking steps to manage your cholesterol can lower your risk of developing complications.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another common arterial condition. If you have hypertension, your blood puts increased pressure on the walls of your arteries as it flows. This can damage your arteries and organs over time.
Like high cholesterol, hypertension is a warning sign for your arterial health. Untreated hypertension can increase your risk of developing heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, but there’s a lot you can do to improve your heart health before it’s too late.
It’s important to note that not every heart condition has noticeable warning signs at first. For example, you could have high cholesterol and hypertension without knowing it. The only way to discover these conditions as early as possible is by getting regular physical exams with your doctor.
If you’re diagnosed with high cholesterol or hypertension, managing your condition is the best way to avoid developing complications, such as heart disease. Dr. Aduli and our team will work with you to implement healthy lifestyle changes and treat your arterial issues, so you can live the best life possible.
The earlier artery and heart problems are identified, the more effective treatment is. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Louisiana Heart and Vascular today.