Heart problems are serious health conditions that require prompt medical attention, which is why it’s important to recognize the potential signs of a cardiovascular disorder. Pinpointing early signs of heart disease can help you be more proactive about your health.
While heart problems can occur without a specific cause, certain conditions and lifestyle choices can increase your chances of developing one. Smoking, being overweight or having diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure all strain the cardiovascular system, putting you at risk of a heart problem.
Read on to learn more about the signs of underlying heart conditions. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms in the past, you should visit a cardiologist to get checked out. However, keep in mind that having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have a heart problem. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and run tests to reach a diagnosis.
Below are possible early signs of heart failure.
Chest pain, also known as angina, can be a sign of a blockage in the heart. It occurs when blood flow is restricted, depriving the heart of oxygen.
Angina can be caused by a heart attack, swelling around the heart or a tear in the heart’s main blood vessel.
Chest pain can feel different for each person who experiences it. Some people don’t describe it as pain at all but more of a tightness or squeezing sensation. Chest pain can be characterized as:
Chest pain can also radiate, spreading to the back, neck, jaw or arms.
Indigestion can feel like a burning sensation in the chest and upper abdomen. However, chest pain related to a heart attack can cause a similar burning feeling. Because the heart and stomach are so close to one another, it can be difficult to distinguish which one is causing the discomfort.
Symptoms of a cardiac event may be dismissed as heartburn, particularly for people who often experience indigestion or other stomach issues.
Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart loses its ability to pump blood efficiently. As a result, blood can pool in the veins of the lower extremities, causing swelling in the legs, ankles and feet. This swelling is known as edema and can be uncomfortable.
Peripheral artery disease is the narrowing or obstruction of arteries that transport blood from the heart to the leg. It is usually caused by an accumulation of fatty plaque in the blood vessels — a condition known as atherosclerosis.
Peripheral artery disease causes cramps or achiness in the legs during physical activity that eases after resting. The pain can occur in the calf, thigh, hip or buttocks.
Chest discomfort can radiate and travel through your nerves to affect other parts of your body, such as your arms. A heart attack can often produce pain in the left arm, but you shouldn’t ignore pain that extends to the right arm — it can still be a sign of impending trouble.
Dizziness can be a symptom of a few types of heart problems. Sometimes it’s accompanied by lightheadedness or feeling faint and as if the room is spinning.
Dizziness can be caused by a narrowing of the arteries, which reduces blood flow to the brain.
Other heart problems that may cause dizziness include:
Just as chest pain or pressure can radiate to the arms, it can extend to the throat and jaw. While jaw pain can happen to anyone, women are more likely to experience jaw pain than men during a heart attack.
Increased sweating — particularly when you aren’t exercising or being active — can be an early warning sign of heart disease. Your heart must work harder than usual to pump blood through narrow arteries. Your body will sweat to try to keep its temperature down during the extra exertion. If you experience cold sweats or clammy skin, you should be aware that you may have a heart problem.
Sweating at night is a common symptom of cardiovascular disease. However, many women dismiss it as a result of hot flashes, which are common during menopause.
If you frequently wake up with wet sheets or experience night sweats that prevent you from sleeping, you may have a heart condition.
If you have heart failure, your heart can’t effectively pump blood to the rest of your body, causing fluid to back up in the lungs. The lungs can become congested, and your body responds with coughing to try and clear them. A persistent cough can indicate that your lungs are chronically congested due to heart failure.
A distressed heart can leave you exhausted due to the extra effort it takes to pump around a blockage. If you frequently feel tired or exhausted for no apparent reason, it could be a sign of a heart problem.
Shortness of breath and exhaustion are more common in women than men and may present months before a heart attack. That’s why it’s essential to consult a doctor promptly if you experience these symptoms.
If you experience any of the symptoms of heart problems listed above, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.
You should see a doctor if you have one or more of these symptoms in addition to:
You should also seek medical care if you experience any of these heart disease symptoms and you:
Discuss your symptoms and concerns with your primary doctor. They will determine if you need a referral to a heart doctor.
A cardiologist will assess your symptoms, go over your family history and suggest any diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.
Your heart doctor may give you advice about eating a healthy diet and incorporating an exercise routine into your lifestyle. You may also need medications to help manage your condition.
If lifestyle changes and medication aren’t enough, your cardiologist may recommend a procedure or surgery to help mitigate or reverse your heart condition.
Advanced Medical Care is committed to providing patients with high-quality medical services in a therapeutic environment. Our experienced, board-certified cardiologists in Queens and Brooklyn offer the best diagnostic tests and treatments to support a variety of health conditions. Care is in our name because it’s in our hearts, and we’re ready to extend it to you. Schedule your appointment at our Brooklyn or Queens office.