Are your Breasts Trying to Tell you Something About Heart Health?

Having issues with your breast health? Check your heart.

A routine search of Google for the words “breast health” will reveal a glut of articles on breast cancer. And while women everywhere should be aware of all the ways to be cancer-free and healthy, several less recognized breast health issues cause concern.

In today’s article, we discuss breast health issues, such as fibroadenomas, cysts, nipple discharge, and breast pains, and what link they have, if any, to heart health.

What are some of the main breast disorders affecting women?

Women are strong, invincible, incredible beings who often have so much on their plates and minds that self-care gets overlooked. And while we are out slaying professional dragons, raising ambitious and astute children, we sometimes get little tingles here and tiny shooting pains there that we ignore. We tell ourselves that if something debilitating were happening, we’d know, instinctively, or the pain would alert us. Many women rely on their bodies to alert them to health issues or bodily conditions that are amiss but tend to overlook common symptoms they’ve grown accustomed to experiencing over the years.

There is blessedly a barrage of announcements and information available about breast cancer and life-threatening symptoms. However, more benign things like mild chest pains, pain under our breasts, nipple soreness, swelling in the armpit region, or even nipple discharge can often go unnoticed or unattended as we go about our lives. What are the most common breast disorders we need to be paying attention to remain aware and on top of breast health?

We hear it broadcasted every October, and interspersed between our health messages online, “do a self-breast examination, and get a mammogram every year, once you hit forty. And how earlier screenings could help detect breast health issues and lower the mortality rate of women screened.

We often don’t hear how some of the symptoms we overlook before the mammogram can contribute to heart disease.

Many symptoms related to breast health are common, meaning that women worldwide experience these symptoms on a daily basis. Some of the indications that send women to the doctor’s office, wondering if they are severely ill include:

  • Breast pain in areas: Depending on where the aching occurs, the cause of the pain could be hormonal, infection, fibrocystic changes, or tumors. Pain in specific, localized areas are usually caused by cysts or abscesses due to infection and tend to feel like round, sore spots that are painful to the touch. Abscesses, caused by infection or mastitis in the breast tend to be pus-filled and agonizing, but they, like cysts often resolve themselves over time.
  • Breast pain in the entire breast on the other hand is often caused by hormonal changes, whether menstrual, menopausal, or during pregnancy. An increase in hormones causes swelling in the glands and edema due to trapped fluids. Occasionally, women will experience pain in the entire breast region due to a widespread infection or growth of the breast tissue that causes strain. Women with breast pain that persists for more than a month, or accompanied by symptoms such as severe pain, redness, or swelling, should be evaluated by their doctor
  • Breast pain under the left breast: While numerous conditions could lead to pain in this region of the bust, the ones we will focus on today are the symptoms of a heart attack. The heart is located slightly toward the left and center of the chest, so pay attention to the aches in this area. Heart disease symptoms are not as we see represented in popular media and are quite different for women than men. Pain indicating heart disease in women tends to be mild and subtle irritations that may come off as innocuous breast pains. Do not overlook aches under the left breast accompanied by the following symptoms: pressure in the chest, shortness of breath, jaw or neck pain, nausea, sweating, lightheadedness, and a sense of impending doom. If you experience any or all of the symptoms mentioned in this section, please see your doctor right away to rule out or get treated for heart disease.

Women with breast pain in other areas of the bust that persists for more than a month, or accompanied by severe pain, redness, or swelling, should be evaluated by their doctor.

Are breast issues different for postmenopausal women as compared to premenopause?

So far, most of the indications of heart disease we have discussed have been premenopausal and centered around the reproductive years. Many women think about postmenopausal life as being an incredible time void of menstrual constraints and, by extension, breast health issues. But, this is not always the reality. Though breast pain does not often signify cancer-risk, and hormonal changes are often to blame for the bosom aches many experiences, postmenopausal women are not exempt from needing breast care.

Noncyclical mastalgia, breast pain not necessarily linked to hormonal or menstrual cycles,  can be caused by conditions that affect the upper torso, including the chest, esophagus, and neck. As women age, the tissues in their mammary glands may harden or increase in the number of cysts causing pain at any age. Other women may experience increased pain during perimenopause due to an imbalance in their hormones caused by hormone therapy.

Another reason older women experience breast health issues is due to the medications they take. Some medicines, specifically those taken for cardiovascular health and psychiatric conditions, tend to increase tenderness and agony in women’s breasts. Some women, up to 85% of those in perimenopause experiencing mastalgia due to hormones, have reported experiencing some relief by taking over the counter pain relief medication or changing their bra for a more comfortable and better fitting type of bra. To learn more about finding the right size bra and what that means for your breast, read this blog post.

Other common issues that affect aging women and their bosoms have to do with weakened muscles, joints, and ligaments. Ailments like Costochondritis-weakened coastal cartilage causes a burning sensation in the bust. While arthritis or muscle spasms and strains cause numbness and pain in the chest area, It is advisable to seek full support bras, especially if your breasts are heavy and the ligaments feel stretched to help alleviate some of the postmenopausal breast aches.

Though this is not a factor of aging, it is essential to note that women who have undergone breast cancer treatments have experienced heart damage and are therefore more prone to heart disease. The link between heart disease and breast cancer has been long studied and documented; however, the main point we wish to highlight here is that the more advanced the age of the woman undergoing the treatment, the higher the risk of heart disease. Please ensure you discuss these connections with your doctor as part of a healthy breast and heart journey.

5 Best practices you can adopt for optimal breast health at any age

Maintaining healthy breasts should be a part of every woman’s lifestyle. Listed below are 5 of the lifestyle practices you can incorporate today to improve breast health and, in some cases, heart health.

  1. Wear the right size bra-we all know our bras can make us unhealthy, especially if they are ill-fitting. An incorrect size bra can cause breast restriction, which causes blockage in the lymphatic system. Some people report having excessive pain in the armpit area due to blocked lymph nodes being unable to drain. Choose to have a professional bra fitting and choose breathable organic material to allow your breasts to breathe and be comfortable.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight-exercise and eating healthy lowers the fat in the body and breasts, thus reducing the amount of estrogen being released into the body. Researchers suggest that 30 minutes of exercise each day are enough to improve your chances of beating the bulge and boosting your bust health.
  3. Get regular breast massages-increasing circulation in the chest allows for healthier blood and lymphatic flow, which are great for metabolism, psychology, and physiology. Use a carrier oil such as grapeseed with a hint of citrus essential oil and gently massage them in a circular pattern to release blocked lymph and get the blood flowing well. If your lymph nodes are swollen and achy, see a professional and get help and relief.
  4. Never store your cell phone in your bra-cell phones are notorious for the radiation they distribute into the air. Though the studies are inconclusive about whether the electromagnetic frequency is strong enough to alter DNA or increase free radicals in the body, carrying cell phones in our bras seems risky. Avoid direct skin contact with your cell phone if possible to increase your chances of remaining cancer-free.
  5. Study your breasts-many women conduct self-breast exams and find lumps and bumps in their breasts and go into a full panic. Breast tissue is lumpy and often changes in consistency based on hormones or life changes. The only way to know if something is awry with your bust region is to get familiar with your shape, texture, and size. Conduct regular exams breast checks in the shower and get acquainted with your bosom so you avoid giving yourself a heart attack from fear.