4 surprising signs you may have heart disease

side view portrait of man looking through window


In this article:

  • Several external areas of the body can exhibit telltale signs of cardiovascular problems.

  • Blue lips mean your body is diverting blood away from non-essential areas.

  • Talk to your Swedish doctor early to curb your risk of developing heart problems. 

A trip to the cardiologist isn’t the only way to tell if you have heart disease. Several external areas of the body can exhibit telltale signs, such as your earlobes, eyes and fingernails, to name a few.

Early action is important for curbing your risk factors of developing heart problems, especially if you have a genetic predisposition to the disease. Besides visiting your doctor regularly, you should play an active role in your own preventive care by following the traditional advice to exercise often and eat well-balanced meals. You can also look out for these four hard-to-miss symptoms that are surprisingly common in people with heart disease:

1. Digital clubbing

Have you noticed your fingernails taking on a different shape? When your fingernails become thicker and wider, it’s a result of more tissue being produced. In some cases of heart disease, clubbing occurs because there is not enough oxygenated blood being transported to the fingers so the cells try to compensate by promoting growth. Linked to congenital defects and other heart conditions that decrease the amount of oxygen in the blood, clubbed fingers are also sometimes caused by lung cancer. Other causes of fingernail clubbing are celiac disease and liver disease. Clubbing can be treated, but you should contact your health care provider to get to the root of the problem.

2. Diseased gums

Oral health has more to do with your heart health than you may think. Inflammation caused by gum disease increases the amount of potentially harmful bacteria in your mouth. When your mouth is full of those bacteria, they may enter the bloodstream and cause damage to blood vessels – exacerbating or perhaps even contributing to the development of heart disease.

3. Blue lips

Blue lips are another symptom of reduced oxygen in the blood. While some experience blue lips temporarily due to high altitude or low temperatures, the phenomenon is most common in those with poor circulation. Cyanosis is the medical term that describes bluish skin tint and is also linked to pulmonary disease, pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

4. Creased earlobes

Also known as Frank’s Sign, a visible external crease on your earlobe could signify an increased risk of plaque buildup in your arteries. The diagonal earlobe crease was linked to acute ischemic stroke, where blood is cut off from the brain. In a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, nearly nine out of 10 patients who suffered this type of stroke exhibited the earlobe crease. Though it may seem like a simple sign of aging, it’s best to play it safe and visit your health care provider for an accurate diagnosis.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that over 700,000 Americans have a heart attack every year. Heart disease does not discriminate, although certain lifestyle stressors and environmental factors play a huge role in increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels – two factors that are linked to heart disease.

Find a doctor

If you have questions about heart health, contact the primary care department at Swedish.  We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

About the Author

The Swedish Heart & Vascular Team is committed to bringing you many years of expertise and experience to help you understand how to prevent, treat and recover from cardiovascular diseases and conditions. From tips to eating better to exercise and everything in between, our clinical experts know how to help you help your heart.

More Content by Swedish Heart & Vascular Team
Previous Article
Social media - how to protect your kids and yourself!

Social media is here to stay, and it’s important that we teach our children how to be responsible, safe users.

Next Article
Daylight Savings – Does it affect your sleep?

Daylight savings time can absolutely affect sleep, especially if you didn’t prepare for the sudden change –...