Heart disease symptoms may not be obvious. You might be vulnerable to cardiovascular issues but not realize it, especially if you haven't gotten recent screenings. Silent or atypical heart attack symptoms are especially prevalent in women and too frequently overlooked.
Great awareness about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and advances in treatment methods have helped many people avoid heart disease or recover from it. That said, the risk is still sky high. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. Recognizing these heart disease symptoms early can help you steer clear of disaster and motivate you to adopt healthier habits.
You’re really, really tired. This is not typical fatigue, or simply feeling tired from lack of sleep. Fatigue associated with heart disease is extreme, and doesn’t go away. If your heart is struggling to deliver oxygen to other parts of your body, you will feel unusual levels of lingering exhaustion.
Walking becomes painful. This pain can become extreme, and shouldn’t be dismissed. Cramping in the hips and legs that occurs when moving, walking, or climbing (but improves with rest) may be a sign of peripheral arterial disease, also called PAD. PAD occurs when there is fatty plaque buildup in the arteries of the legs. PAD is serious, but responds well to treatment.
You feel dizzy at random times. This symptom has many non-heart related causes, but feeling faint or dizzy at random times may mean your heart is struggling. You may have an irregular heartbeat, or you may be at risk of heart attack. Dizziness can be caused by blocked arteries that lessen blood pressure, or faulty valves struggling to maintain blood pressure.
Your feet swell. If your feet are sore, painful, and swollen, with no obvious explanation, your heart could be in trouble. Heart-related foot swelling will typically be accompanied by other symptoms such as sudden weight gain, extreme fatigue, and shortness of breath.
You have episodes of sudden anxiety and nausea. The classic symptoms of a panic attack, such as anxiety, nausea, shortness of breath, and sudden sweating, can also indicate heart attack. You may also feel fatigue, pain and fullness in the chest that may radiate to the back, neck, jaw, throat, or shoulders. Get to the emergency room immediately if these symptoms are present. Do not wait. Those who arrive at the hospital within one hour of heart attack symptoms have the best chance of survival.
You’re experiencing exercise intolerance. If you start feeling winded or unable to easily complete physical tasks you’re used to doing, like climbing stairs and working out, your heart may be in distress. If you suddenly need more rest after your normal physical activities, it might be smart to get your heart checked, especially if exercise intolerance occurs with other symptoms.
You’re depressed. Depression is not necessarily a sign of heart disease, but people who have heart disease, or increased risk factors for heart disease, tend to be depressed. Check with your doctor if you’re depressed, especially if other symptoms are present.
There is pain in your back, arms, or chest. If you suddenly have significant new pain, whether or not it feels like the typical chest heaviness, check in with your doctor. Heart muscle cells run out of oxygen during a heart attack because of blocked arteries, triggering pain signals throughout the nervous system. The brain may confuse these nerve signals as coming from the back, chest, or either arm, due to nerve proximity with the heart muscle.
Your stomach or gastrointestinal tract is upset. Heart disease can present as nausea, vomiting, indigestion, or GI distress, especially in women. If you’re feeling particularly unwell, it’s always a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider.
The guiding principle is to listen to your body. If something doesn't feel right, don't ignore it. These heart disease symptoms overlap with other conditions, so don't assume you are in serious cardiovascular trouble just because you have one or two of them. But monitor them closely and, if they persist, talk to a doctor. And remember to reduce your risk of heart disease by quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, minimizing stress, and eating a nutritious.