Warning signs and symptoms of heart disease
Heart disease often develops over time. You may have early signs or symptoms long before you have serious heart problems. Or, you may not realize you are developing heart disease. The warning signs of heart disease may not be obvious. Also, not every person has the same symptoms.
Certain symptoms, such as chest pain, ankle swelling, and shortness of breath may be signals that something is wrong. Learning the warning signs can help you get treatment and help prevent a heart attack or stroke.
Angina - heart disease warning signs; Chest pain - heart disease warning signs; Dyspnea - heart disease warning signs; Edema - heart disease warning signs; Palpitations - heart disease warning signs
Chest pain is discomfort or pain that you feel along the front of your body, between your neck and upper abdomen. There are many causes of chest pain that have nothing to do with your heart.
But chest pain is still the most common symptom of poor blood flow to the heart or a heart attack. This type of chest pain is called angina.
Chest pain can occur when the heart is not getting enough blood or oxygen. The amount and type of pain can vary from person to person. The intensity of the pain does not always relate to how severe the problem is.
Women, older adults, and people with diabetes may have little or no chest pain. They are more likely to have symptoms other than chest pain, such as:
Other symptoms of a heart attack can include:
Shortness of Breath
When the heart can't pump blood as well as it should, blood backs up in the veins that go from the lungs to the heart. Fluid leaks into the lungs and causes shortness of breath. This is a symptom of heart failure.
You may notice shortness of breath:
Coughing or Wheezing
Coughing or wheezing that doesn't go away can be another sign that fluid is building up in your lungs. You may also cough up mucus that is pink or bloody.
Swelling in the Legs, Ankles, or Feet
Swelling (edema) in your lower legs is another sign of a heart problem. When your heart doesn't work as well, blood flow slows and backs up in the veins in your legs. This causes fluid to build up in your tissues.
You may also have swelling in your stomach or notice some weight gain.
Narrowed Blood Vessels
Narrowing of the blood vessels that bring blood to other parts of the body may mean you have a much higher risk for heart attack. It can occur when cholesterol and other fatty material (plaque) build up on the walls of your arteries.
Poor blood supply to the legs may lead to:
A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain stops. A stroke is sometimes called a "brain attack." Symptoms of stroke can include difficulty moving the limbs on one side of your body, one side of the face drooping, difficulty with speaking or understanding language.
Tiredness can have many causes. Often it simply means that you need more rest. But feeling run down can be a sign of a more serious problem. Fatigue may be a sign of heart trouble when:
Fast or Uneven Heartbeat (Palpitations)
If your heart can't pump blood as well, it may beat faster to try to keep up. You may feel your heart racing or throbbing. A fast or uneven heartbeat can also be the sign of an arrhythmia. This is a problem with your heart rate or rhythm.
When to Call the Doctor
If you have any signs of heart disease, call your health care provider right away. Don't wait to see if the symptoms go away or dismiss them as nothing.
Call your local emergency number (such as 911) if:
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Review Date: 9/24/2018
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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