Having a healthy heart is one of the most important factors in your overall health. That’s because heart disease is the single leading cause of mortality among both men and women in the U.S., accounting for roughly one in every five deaths. Yet many people are unaware of some of the subtle signs of heart disease, and in particular congenital heart disease, which can take many forms. Read on to learn one surprising symptom you may notice in your lips, and what’s behind this particular heart health red flag.
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Every year, roughly 40,000 babies are born in the U.S. with congenital heart disease, a condition defined by having one or more structural defects in the heart at birth. While much of the time, congenital heart disease is found prenatally or shortly after delivery, “for some people, signs or symptoms of congenital heart disease aren’t noticed until adulthood,” says the Mayo Clinic.
Other individuals treated for congenital heart disease in their youth may also see symptoms resurface years later, experts say.
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Adults with congenital heart disease can develop a range of potentially serious complications, even after treatment. These may include heart arrhythmia (irregular heart beat), an infection of the heart, stroke, heart failure, or pulmonary hypertension.
“People with congenital heart disease need lifelong medical care. Treatment may include regular checkups (watchful waiting), medications or surgery. If you have adult congenital heart disease, ask your health care provider how often you need a checkup,” advises the Mayo Clinic.
Some people with heart disease develop cyanosis, or cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCHD). This means that their heart defect or defects reduce the amount of oxygen delivered to the rest of the body.
When this occurs, many patients will develop a bluish tint to the color of their lips, the result of reduced oxygen in the red blood cells. Some people may notice this change in coloration in their skin or fingernails, the Mayo Clinic notes.
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Several other signs of congenital heart disease may help you identify a problem. These include irregular heart rhythms, chest pain, shortness of breath, swelling (edema) in body tissue or organs, and increased exhaustion with activity.
If you have a known history of congenital heart disease—even if you have been treated in the past and lived without symptoms since—it’s important to have your heart checked immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.