Early signs of heart problems don’t always show up in in-your-face ways. Sometimes the clues are subtle.
But first, the obvious: If you experience symptoms of a heart attack, get to an emergency department immediately. Symptoms may include chest pain, pain that radiates to the jaw, sweating without cause, shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea.
Heart disease starts well before a heart attack, and if you’re aware of changes in your body, you might be able to address its progress before you have an emergency.
The problem is that many of the “sneaky” clues to heart disease are not specific to that condition.
Practically every patient will have one of these symptoms. Most often, the cause is not a problem with a heart — but sometimes it is. So if you experience any of the following, bring it to your provider’s attention.
8 Early Heart Disease Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
- Fatigue. A lack of energy can be an early sign of heart disease. But it also can be a sign of countless other issues, from jet lag and overwork to medical conditions such as anemia. Lots of people blow off fatigue as just getting old, but if they notice a loss of stamina it might be indicative of a heart issue. If you remain tired for an extended period or if you can’t do things you used to do, mention the fatigue to your doctor. Fatigue can also be caused by sleep apnea, a condition that’s related to cardiovascular disease.
- Erectile dysfunction. Difficulty getting or keeping an erection is not uncommon in men with heart disease, because the penis may not get enough blood. That’s why men who seek treatment for erectile dysfunction should be screened for a cardiovascular disease first, and men dealing with ED should tell their doctors.
- Leg or hip pain when walking. In someone with heart disease, pain while walking might not be from working joints or muscles. Instead, the pain could be caused by a narrowing of the arteries that can limit oxygen flow to tissue. People with diabetes are especially likely to experience this symptom as an early sign of heart disease.
- Dizziness. An abnormality in the heart’s rhythm, which causes it to beat too fast or too slow, can cause dizziness. While heart rhythm abnormalities are not generally related to blocked arteries, disturbances in the heart’s electrical system is a type of heart disease.
- Swelling. Fluid that builds up in the feet, ankles, and legs can be a sign of heart disease. Patients with advanced congestive heart failure may be prone to increased fluid retention in the legs due to high pressures within the heart. Often it’s a sign of venous insufficiency, in which blood does not flow back to the heart properly.
- Chest pain or discomfort. Also known as angina, this symptom can be mistaken for heartburn or even indigestion.
- Throat or jaw pain. If this early sign of heart disease is combined with other symptoms, talk to your doctor, especially if the pressure starts in the chest and the pain radiates to your throat or jaw.
- Sweating. Again, if this early symptom of heart disease is experienced with other signs, discuss this with your doctor or seek immediate medical attention. Sweating more than what is usual for you, could be a sign of stress.
Diagnosing Early Signs of Heart Disease
When meeting with a patient who shows early signs of heart disease, patients can anticipate a workup that includes a medical history and an assessment of heart disease risk. The provider may also order a screening such as an electrocardiogram (EKG), a stress test, and a timed workout on a treadmill to monitor the heart’s performance.
Take Charge of Your Heart Health
Managing health behaviors and risk factors are imperative to maintaining a healthy heart. And being aware of the early signs of heart disease are important because some symptoms do not even happen in your chest. It’s not always easy to tell what the cause is, so discuss any concerns with your doctor.
Baptist Health’s highly skilled physicians and staff offer a progressive approach to heart care and the prevention and treatment of coronary artery and vascular disease, heart failure, and heart rhythm disorders. Are you experiencing symptoms of heart disease? In an emergency, call 911, and discuss your concerns with your doctor.
Learn your heart’s biological age, your risk of heart disease and any harmful risk factors you may face by taking our heart-health assessment.