Over 28 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with heart disease. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema combined cause over 7 million ER visits each year. So how can you be proactive in protecting your heart and lungs? Here are some not-so-well-known symptoms and signs that could indicate bigger problems are on the way.
Dr. Jeff Schussler is an interventional cardiologist who puts the problem of heart disease in perspective.
"Fully half of the people that are going to die in America are going to die of cardiovascular disease, and that includes heart attacks, it includes strokes," he said.
But there are some unusual signs that may indicate you have a heart health issue. One surprising sign of plaque buildup in your arteries is creased earlobes. Bilateral earlobe creases are also known as Frank's sign. It's important to note that while over 40 studies have shown an association between the two, a correlation and cause hasn't been proven.
Another potential indicator of heart issues is yellow, fatty bumps appearing on the elbows, knees, buttocks, or eyelids. This can be a sign of extremely high cholesterol that has led to internal and external fatty deposits. Another sign that you should watch out for: loose teeth or rotten gums. Both can lead to that bad bacteria entering the bloodstream via the mouth, causing inflammation of your blood vessels.
Dr. Annabelle Volgman is the medical director at the Rush Heart Center for Women.
"I had a patient that had a tooth ache that turned out to be her symptom for having a heart attack. She kept going to the dentist and the dentist couldn't find anything wrong and finally said, 'I wonder if you're having heart disease,'" Volgman said.
Some unusual signs and symptom could also be a red flag for lung health issues.
For example, if you feel pain or swelling in your leg, it could be a sign of a blood clot. In that case, usually the pain or tenderness is felt in one leg, most often in the calf. You may also feel a heavy ache or redness at the back of your knee.
It can become extremely risky as a piece of the clot could break off and make its way into your lung, causing serious damage or death.
Shortness of breath is another symptom - but it can be serious sign of heart or lung disease, so it's important to see a doctor to narrow down the cause. If you're wheezing or feel like you can't take a deep breath, or avoiding the stairs or other simple activities, it's time to get some medical attention.
Blue lips can also be a sign of a problem, indicating the cardiovascular system isn't properly distributing enough oxygen via the bloodstream to the tissues.
Lastly, if you've had a cough for more than a month then doctors would consider that a chronic cough. According to pulmonologists, nearly all lung diseases have a chronic cough as one of its main symptoms, so it's not a symptom you should dismiss.
Surprising signs of heart and lung problems
CIRCLE OF HEALTH