When the heart begins to fail, symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, ankle swelling, or fluid retention show up and require immediate attention.
Early if not unusual body indicators can help to prevent some of the familiar aspects of cardiovascular disease. In some cases lumps and bumps or painful swelling can even warn you about the presence of deadly bacteria in your bloodstream.
1 Increasing waistline
Insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes are directly connected to heart disease. Look at yourself in the mirror and check your waistline. Is it spreading? For ladies the upper limit is 88 cm, for men it is 102 cm. Is there excess belly fat? Take a diagonal skinfold between the belly button and the waistline. If the fingers can’t squeeze down to closer than 1-2 cm then your body mass index is too high.
2 Erectile dysfunction
This is noticeable and may be an early indicator of the problems that lead to poor circulation with inflammation, such as a build-up of plaque in the arteries.
3 Changes in skin can indicate arterial fibrillation
Cameras and scanners can detect skin changes that indicate uneven blood flow caused by arterial fibrillation. An irregular or sometimes rapid heart rate can affect circulation when the upper and lower chambers of the heart beat out of sync. If left untreated it increases the risk for blood clots and stroke.
4 The iris indicates triglyceride levels, lymphatic conditions and heart lung defects
We can see that fats are accumulating in the blood stream by the white ring that appears around the iris as we get older. Another white circle around the iris can show at a glance how congested the lymphatic system is. People who have had serious heart or lung problems will have a darkened spot where these zones are represented on the left iris.
5 Yellow bumps around the eyes or on the body
Xanthomas are deposits of fat that build up under the skin. They may appear as small yellow bumps or as flat, wide appendages on your elbows, knees, hands, feet, or buttocks. A type of xanthoma called “xanthelasma palpebra” appears on the eyelids. They may indicate insulin resistance or high cholesterol levels. Eruptive xanthomas appear as crops of yellow-orange papules with reddish borders on arms, legs and usually the buttocks when triglyceride levels are greater than 11 mmol/L (1000 mg/d).
6 Skin tags indicate insulin resistance (HBP, cholesterol and diabetes)
Skin tags are protruding growths on the skin, especially on the neck that look like warts or sacks. They are often darker in colour. These are called skin tags. They are unsightly and irritating yet are harmless. They will increase to the extent you are insulin resistant. You may already have high blood pressure.
7 Swelling under the eyes, blue rings may indicate kidney dysfunction and fluid retention.
Blue smears under the eyes or blackened rings (raccoon eyes) indicate dehydration and food allergies – especially to wheat or gluten. Carbon dioxide gets trapped in the tiny blood vessels and so the skin appears to be blue.
8 Clubbing or bulbous fingers and toes caused by low oxygen in the blood
If the nails are clubbing or becoming round and bulbous at the tips it may be connected to a chronic shortage of oxygen. This can indicate aortic valve disease especially if accompanied by shortness of breath, a chronic cough, fatigue and chest pain. If extremities feel numb it may be associated with diabetes – another cause of poor circulation and nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy.
9 Fingers that warn us about bacterial endocarditis
Splinter haemorrhages happen when tiny blood clots form in the capillaries beneath finger and toe nails. If this occurs in a person with a heart murmur and an ongoing low grade fever it could indicate an infection of the heart valves called bacterial endocarditis. Osler’s nodes and “Janeway” lesions are red painful little lumps most commonly found on the pads of the fingers and toes and as well as on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. They are not painful and are usually associated with acute bacterial endocarditis. (Page 36, 99 )
10 Swelling of the feet and lower legs
Oedema refers to swollen areas, especially around the ankles due to fluid retention. Most people with peripheral oedema do not have heart disease, but when combined with other conditions it can indicate heart failure.
11 Cyanosis is a bluish discoloration due to a lack of haemoglobin
It is usually seen on the lips, nail beds, earlobes, and cheeks. This happens when the absolute concentration of reduced haemoglobin exceeds 5 g/dL. In peripheral cyanosis, a slowing of blood flow and over extraction of oxygen from blood can be caused by reactions to shock or congestive heart failure, peripheral vascular disease or Raynaud’s syndrome.
12 Red, purple or black skin patches
Warfarin and other aggressive anticoagulant drugs can cause painful areas of erythema (redness) that may become purpuric (purple) and necrotic (black, stagnant or dead). An imbalance in the levels of anticoagulant and pro coagulant vitamin K–dependent factors causes the leakage of blood into tissues. (Pages 53-60, 105, 121) It affects subcutaneous fat: for example breasts, abdomen, buttocks, thighs or calves.
13 Skin tone pale or red, spider veins
Red spots, like patches of blood pooling beneath the skin is an early indicator of a vitamin C deficiency. It is usually is accompanied by bleeding gums – another sign that collagen is breaking down and not being replaced. The skin shows easy bruising and bleeding and small spider veins form, usually on the cheeks. Blood vessels begin to weaken and degenerate. Red-faced people have a lot of blood racing through their system while pale-skinned ghostly white complexions are associated with anaemia. They lack haemoglobin, the substance needed by red blood cells to carry oxygen. As a result they are tired and are short of oxygen.
14 Yellow, grey or coppery skin tones
Excessive iron accumulation within the organs and tissues results in a disease called haemochromatosis. It can also be caused by a genetic quirk in people who absorb over 4 times the amount of iron they need from food sources. Haemochromatosis is dangerous for the heart because iron oxidizes and can damage heart muscle. If left untreated congestive heart failure is usually the result.
15 Bulging eyes indicate hyperthyroidism and irregular heart beat
Ocular proptosis (bulging or “pop eyes”) are evident in people with Graves disease or other hyperthyroid abnormalities that affect the heart rate, cardiomyopathy, supraventricular arrhythmias, or atrial fibrillation.
16 Dry hair, coarse skin, clammy hands associated with Hypothyroidism – low cardiac output
Hypothyroidism is associated with an increased resting heart rate, decreased contractility, and decreased cardiac output. Diastolic pressure is increased and pulse pressure is narrowed. Cardiac output may be reduced by up to 30%-40% as a result of decreased stroke volume and heart rate. There is increased systemic vascular resistance plus arterial stiffness. Higher homocysteine levels, increased C-reactive protein and higher blood viscosity are usually present to a degree. About 90% of patients with overt hypothyroidism have elevated total cholesterol and LDL levels.
17 Diagonal ear lobe creases
An earlobe crease combined with fatty deposits on the eyelids (xanthelasmata), a receding hairline or baldness and a larger waistline all indicate cardiovascular problems. The crease can also be seen on younger people with a high potential for cardiovascular problems. They are said to be associated with an increased heart attack risk of 57% and ischemic heart disease by 39%. Diagonal creases were present in 123 (72%) of 171 men and 88 (67%) of 132 women in heart disease assessment. They are more common on the left ear. (This is the reflex pathway of the heart meridian.)
18 Mercury fillings increase the toxic potential
An alarming study found patients with advanced congestive heart failure to have up to 22,000 times the mercury levels in the heart of those without amalgam fillings.
19 Gum Diseases and sources of direct bleeding like leaky gut
Swollen, sore, and or bleeding gums (gingivitis) are usually a sign of poor oral hygiene, but may also be an important indicator of heart disease. Any lesions in the mouth act as channels for bacteria that can directly enter the bloodstream. Dentists may accidentally cut the gum tissue or cause a wound. This is one of the reasons why they prescribe antibiotics – to protect the heart! People who have a leaky gut are also more prone to bacterial infections that affect the heart due to the direct access the intestinal microbes have to the bloodstream when the lining is damaged. (See endocarditis pages 36, 99)
References from Healthy Happy Heart by Dr James Liddell and Sue Visser
Chapter 9 pages 111 – 116 Visible signs of heart problems
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