Red hearts have been visible everywhere this month. It’s important to remember those we love during Valentines season, but don’t forget to consider the health of your own heart as well.

Heart disease warning signs can be elusive. If you have a family history of heart disease or stroke, a talk with your doctor is in order.

Everyone is at risk for heart disease, but here is a list of factors that put you at a higher risk:

  • High cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Unhealthy diet

Your age and family history also affect your risk for heart disease. Your risk is higher if:

  • You are a woman over age 55
  • You are a man over age 45
  • Your father or brother had heart disease before age 55
  • Your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65

Some warning signs might not be recognized as potential risks. Here are some surprising clues that you should know:

  • Snoring and sleep apnea

Loud snoring is a common sign of sleep apnea, as is morning sleepiness after a full night’s sleep. Sleep apnea (periods of time during sleep where you stop breathing) is associated with changes that increase the risk of both heart attack and stroke. The good news is the treatment of sleep apnea reportedly has been proven to lower heart risks.

Sore, swollen or bleeding gums

Unhealthy gums can be a symptom of periodontitis, a serious gum infection that damages gums and can destroy the jawbone. Infections in the mouth can spread throughout the entire body and can be a strong risk factor for the development of heart disease and heart attack.

  • Puffy legs and feet

Swelling in the legs and feet can have many causes, however it can be an indication of congestive heart failure, especially if the person is having unusual shortness of breath with activity or when trying to sleep.

  • Aching or pain in the shoulders or neck

Not all people have the feeling of “an elephant sitting on my chest” or “a squeezing sensation in my arms” when they are experiencing a heart attack. Rather, some people might feel a very uncomfortable sensation, achiness, pain or pressure in their neck, jaw or shoulders as the only sign of heart pain or a heart attack.

  • Heartburn or indigestion

A burning or aching sensation in the upper abdomen, or persistent hiccups that you can’t stop, can also be a sign of heart pain or a heart attack.

Be heart smart, and take care of yourself!

Rachel Carson is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care serving The Lowcountry since 1997.