Did you know paying attention to your hands can help you prevent heart disease? Research shows that your hands are one of the most overlooked organs that signal problems with your heart (1).
Recent worldwide statistics show that over 30% of deaths are caused by heart disease (2). In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone suffers from a heart attack every forty seconds in the United States (3).
You would think that such a deadly disease has many warning signs, but it does not. A new survey by American researchers found that over 63% of people believe it’s likely they will suffer from heart disease within the next 10 years (4).
Even though everyone sees their hands all the time, most people don’t notice when they are signaling a serious health problem such as cardiovascular disease.
In this article, you’ll learn five easily ignored signs on your hands that could warn you of heart trouble.
5. Painful Finger Bumps
Lumps on the fingers, especially at the tip, that are tender, purple-pink, and painful, are called Osler’s nodes (5). These lumps could be a sign of infective endocarditis – a life-threatening inflammation of the cardiovascular system.
A bacterial infection that spreads into your heart and blood vessels could lead to endocarditis. If you notice painful lumps on your fingers, you should not ignore them, because doing so might cause irreversible damage to your heart.
A report by Krishan Parashar from Wayne State University School of Medicine explains that Osler’s nodes develop as a result of inflammation in the blood vessel (6). This leads to bacterial infection in the dermis (the middle layer of the skin), which causes increased inflammation in the cardiovascular system
Osler’s nodes may disappear on their own within a couple of days. But this does not mean it’s harmless (7).
See a doctor for a skin biopsy if you suspect that the lumps on your fingers are Osler’s nodes. You can also consult a cardiologist to determine if the bump is related to a heart condition.
4. Reddish-brown or purple lines on nails
Red or purple lines underneath your nail (nail bed) are a common symptom of splinter hemorrhages. This condition results from damaged blood vessels on your fingernails (8). And it could be a sign of heart-related issues.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), splinter hemorrhages, alongside fever and irregular heartbeat, could be signs of heart disease (10).
A paper published by researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York explains multiple lines on your nails could show a serious health problem (9).
Splinter hemorrhaging occurs because of bleeding in the blood vessels underneath your nails. This could be caused by trauma or bacterial infection that has spread into the cardiovascular system, says the New England Journal of Medicine (8).
3. Fingernails clubbing
Even though you probably never heard of the term clubbing, Andrew Jamieson MB, Ph.D., says that it’s a common condition (10).
People who have clubbing experience enlarged fingernails, soft nail beds, and downward-curved nails. It usually occurs when oxygen in the blood is low (11).
One of the major causes of clubbing is infective endocarditis, which is a bacterial infection of the heart chamber and valves.
According to a paper by Amber S. Tully MD, clubbing is diagnosed when “the angle that forms between the nail plate and the soft tissue of the distal digit is greater than 180 degrees” (12).
While this condition is common in people with birth defects, it can also occur because of heart disease, osteoarthritis, and lung disease.
If clubbing is caused by heart disease, the symptoms will begin in the thumb and index fingers.
This disease develops quickly, but can be healed easily once the underlying cause has been treated. If you notice your fingernails are bulging, see a medical physician as soon as possible.
2. Weak, tingling, and waxy hands
Amyloidosis is a rare condition that is characterized by numbness, pain, weakness, and wax-like bumps on the hands. It develops as a result of the buildup of an irregular protein called amyloid (13).
When amyloid deposits increase in the heart, it replaces the heart muscles, which causes Cardiac Amyloidosis (stiff heart syndrome). This condition makes it difficult for the heart to function properly. And it might lead to cardiovascular cell signaling problems and abnormal heartbeat.
The American Heart Association (AHA) journal explains that Cardiac amyloidosis reduces the amount of blood that flows into the heart; this leads to a slowdown of blood circulation in the body (14).
Because the blood supply is low, the amount of oxygen your hands receive is reduced, which causes wax-like hands, pain, and a weak grip.
If you notice any of these symptoms on your hands, contact your physician without hesitation, as your heart might be in danger.
1. Colored spots on the palms
Harvard Medical School Professor MD Jatin Vyas explains that bluish-red or brown painless patches on the palms are called Janeway lesions (15).
This condition is caused by blood clots containing bacteria (septic emboli) that lead to infection in the circulatory system.
Janeway lesions develop and disappear quickly (often within days), which means most people will not notice them (16, 17). That is why you need to consult a doctor as soon as you see discoloration on your palms to test if you have a heart problem.
While most people will only visit a doctor when they feel sick, it is always better to prevent an illness than to cure it, especially heart-related issues.
A study published in Clinical Cardiology shows that 80% of heart-related problems can be prevented by avoiding harmful lifestyle choices. The team adds that diet, weight, and cigarette smoking significantly increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease (18).
This means that you can reduce your risk of heart problems by modifying your lifestyle and paying attention to your body, especially your hands.
It is also important to visit your physician regularly for routine checkups. You should speak to your doctor about your diet, lifestyle, body symptoms, and any other health concerns you may have.