Heart disease is one of the most talked about health conditions, with public health awareness campaigns being run every year, if not several times a year. Despite all the publicity that heart disease gets, most of us seem to know precious little about the early warning signs of heart disease.
A survey conducted by HeartFlow, in the UK threw up some pretty disturbing findings. Out of all the respondents quizzed on their familiarity with coronary artery disease symptoms, 26 percent couldn’t even identify chest pain as a warning sign.
So, here are 10 signs of heart disease that you should never ignore and we’ll start with the one that we think should be most obvious – chest pain.
Heart Disease Symptoms to Look Out For
Chest pain can occur for a variety of reasons, but it is also the most definitive sign of heart disease, which is why it should never be ignored.
Clinically described as angina, this type of chest pain can be indicative of coronary artery disease, wherein the heart muscles aren’t receiving adequate oxygen-rich blood because of atherosclerosis or narrowing and blockage of arteries.
Sudden Pain in the Arm, Neck, Jaw or Upper Back
Not always associated with heart disease, pain in these areas is often confused with conditions like a toothache, spondylitis, or muscle pulls. There’s a pretty clear way to tell the difference though.
When these symptoms surface alongside others, such as difficulty breathing, uneasiness, and perspiration, there’s a good chance that they have been caused by angina or a heart attack. You should be concerned if the symptoms appear suddenly and also if they disappear in a matter of minutes.
Once again the sensation of dizziness or lightheadedness is not in itself a symptom of heart disease and can be connected with the most mundane circumstances, such as standing up suddenly, dehydration, or malnutrition.
It should be treated as a possible symptom of heart disease when the sensation surfaces along with other warning signs, such as those mentioned above.
Pain or Burning Sensation in the Windpipe and Mouth
Once again, these symptoms can be indicative of some of the most common and non-threatening health conditions. However, they are likely to be indicative of heart disease when the pain originates in the chest, extending towards the mouth and throat.
Indigestion and Tummy Ache
Some people experience symptoms that you’d normally associate with the stomach flu, rather than heart disease, when they’re suffering a heart attack. These can include nausea, heartburn, and tummy pain, as well as vomiting in cases.
Women are more likely to experience such unusual symptoms as compared to men. Generally, they are more likely to be indicative of gastrointestinal disorders, but if you’re already at risk of heart disease it would be best to let your doctor know.
The sudden onset of fatigue is another significant indicator of heart disease. Depleted oxygen flow to the muscles reduces your capacity to perform activities that you normally would, whether it’s walking your dog or doing your laundry.
Fatigue isn’t always symptomatic of heart disease, but it’s significant enough to get checked. In women in particular, weakness and fatigue can even last for days.
Sweating when you’re active or outdoors in the summer heat is normal and a healthy bodily response, but it can be worrying when you perspire excessively without any stimuli.
Cold sweats and night sweats are again more likely to affect women who are experiencing or about to suffer a heart attack. However, when accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort, or pain in the arms, neck or jaws, it should be treated as an emergency.
Swelling of the Feet
Heart disease can result in swelling of the extremities, which would include your feet, ankles, and legs, for different reasons. For one, this could be a result of impaired blood flow due to arterial blockages or narrowed arteries, but it could also be a result of water retention, as heart disease can cause impaired kidney function.
Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing can easily be confused with other conditions, but they are also warning signs of heart disease. If you have no history of serious respiratory disease, this can be pretty ominous.
Breathlessness can develop as a result of heart disease because of impaired lung function caused by the accumulation of blood in the lungs. In such situations, it is very likely that propping yourself up in bed eases breathing.
Most of us tend to snore when we sleep, but loud snoring and signs of gasping for breath during sleep are indicative of sleep apnea and can be particularly troubling if you didn’t snore heavily before.
It would be a good idea to get the problem checked out as soon as possible, as it also puts additional stress on the heart increasing the risk of heart disease.
If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, especially a combination of symptoms, it would be a good idea to seek professional help at the earliest. When detected and treated early, heart disease can be easily managed, improving your quality of life significantly.