Monday, April 13, 2009


Heart Disease: Symptoms

Coronary artery disease, heart attack -- each type of heart disease has different symptoms, although many heart problems have similar symptoms. The symptoms you experience depend on the type and severity of your heart condition. Learn to recognize your symptoms and the situations that cause them. Call your doctor if you begin to have new symptoms or if they become more frequent or severe.

Coronary Artery Disease

The most common symptom is angina. Angina can be described as a discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing or painful feeling in your chest. It can be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. Angina is usually felt in the chest, but may also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw or back.

Other symptoms that can occur with coronary artery disease include:

* Shortness of breath
* Palpitations (irregular heart beats, skipped beats or a "flip-flop" feeling in your chest)
* A faster heartbeat
* Weakness or dizziness
* Nausea
* Sweating

Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction or MI)

Symptoms can include:

* Discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain in the chest, arm or below the breastbone
* Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat or arm
* Fullness, indigestion or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
* Sweating, nausea, vomiting or dizziness
* Extreme weakness, anxiety or shortness of breath
* Rapid or irregular heartbeats

During a heart attack, symptoms typically last 30 minutes or longer and are not relieved by rest or oral medications (medications taken by mouth). Initial symptoms can start as a mild discomfort that progresses to significant pain.

Some people have a heart attack without having any symptoms (a "silent" MI). A silent MI can occur among all people, though it occurs more often among diabetics.

If you think you are having a heart attack, DO NOT DELAY. Call for emergency help (dial 911 in most areas). Immediate treatment of a heart attack is very important to lessen the amount of damage to your heart.


When symptoms of arrhythmias are present, they may include:

* Palpitations (a feeling of skipped heart beats, fluttering or "flip-flops," or feeling that your heart is "running away").
* Pounding in your chest.
* Dizziness or feeling light-headed.
* Fainting.
* Shortness of breath.
* Chest discomfort.
* Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired).

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a type of arrhythmia. Most people with AF experience one or more of the following symptoms:

* Heart palpitations (a sudden pounding, fluttering, or racing feeling in the heart).
* Lack of energy; tired.
* Dizziness (feeling faint or light-headed).
* Chest discomfort (pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest).
* Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing during activities of daily living).

Some patients with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms. Sometimes these episodes are briefer.

Heart Valve Disease

Symptoms of Heart valve disease can include:

* Shortness of breath and/or difficulty catching your breath. You may notice this most when you are active (doing your normal daily activities) or when you lie down flat in bed.
* Weakness or dizziness.
* Discomfort in your chest. You may feel a pressure or weight in your chest with activity or when going out in cold air.
* Palpitations (this may feel like a rapid heart rhythm, irregular heartbeat, skipped beats or a flip-flop feeling in your chest).
* If valve disease causes heart failure, symptoms may include:
* Swelling of your ankles, feet or abdomen. Swelling may also occur in your belly, which may cause you to feel bloated.
* Quick weight gain (a weight gain of two or three pounds in one day is possible).

Symptoms do not always relate to the seriousness of your valve disease. You may have no symptoms at all and have severe valve disease, requiring prompt treatment. Or, as with mitral valve prolapse, you may have severe symptoms, yet tests may show minor valve disease.

Heart Failure

Symptoms of Heart failure can include:

* Shortness of breath noted during activity (most commonly) or at rest, especially when you lie down flat in bed.
* Cough that is productive of a white mucus.
* Quick weight gain (a weight gain of two or three pounds in one day is possible).
* Swelling in ankles, legs and abdomen.
* Dizziness.
* Fatigue and weakness.
* Rapid or irregular heartbeats.
* Other symptoms include nausea, palpitations and chest pain.

Like valve disease, heart failure symptoms may not be related to how weak your heart is. You may have many symptoms, but your heart function may be only mildly weakened. Or you may have a severely damaged heart, with little or no symptoms.

Congential Heart Disease

Congenital heart defects may be diagnosed before birth, right after birth, during childhood, or not until adulthood. It is possible to have a defect and no symptoms at all. Sometimes it can be diagnosed because of a heart murmur on physical exam or an abnormal EKG or chest X-ray in an asymptomatic person.

In adults, if symptoms are present, they may include:

* Shortness of breath.
* Limited ability to exercise.
* Symptoms of heart failure (see above) or valve disease (see above).

Congenital Heart Disease in Infants and Children

Symptoms can include:

* Cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, fingernails and lips).
* Fast breathing and poor feeding.
* Poor weight gain.
* Recurrent lung infections.
* Inability to exercise.

Heart Muscle Disease (Cardiomyopathy)

Many people with heart muscle disease have no symptoms or only minor symptoms, and live a normal life. Other people develop symptoms, which progress and worsen as heart function worsens.

Symptoms can occur at any age and may include:

* Chest pain or pressure (occurs usually with exercise or physical activity, but can also occur with rest or after meals).
* Heart failure symptoms (see above).
* Swelling of the lower extremities.
* Fatigue.
* Fainting.
* Palpitations (fluttering in the chest due to abnormal heart rhythms).

Some people also have arrhythmias. These can lead to sudden death in a small number of people with cardiomyopathy.


When present, symptoms of pericarditis may include:

* Chest pain. This pain is different from angina (pain caused by coronary artery disease). It may be sharp and located in the center of the chest. The pain may radiate to the neck and occasionally, the arms and back. It is made worse when lying down, taking a deep breath in, coughing or swallowing and relieved by sitting forward.

Low-grade fever.
* Increased heart rate.

Because many of the symptoms associated with each type of heart disease are similar, it is important to see your doctor so that you can receive a correct diagnosis and prompt treatment.


Betsy from Tennessee said...

Great Gena... You have put alot of effort into doing this. I hope lots of people read it.

I read recently that WOMEN may have different symptoms when having a heart attack than men. Have you heard that????


Gena said...

Absolutely! Forget all you have ever heard about heart attack symptoms because most of them are for MEN. I'm glad you brought that up! WOMEN almost always present in the shoulders, in the jaw, back....I will have to add to the symptoms. I wasn't even thinking.
Thanks! I will post it!
Talk soon!

Pooja said...

Chest pain does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong in the heart. It is generally some sort of pain in the chest. Chest pain is very common of chest pain like anxiety, heartburn, angina, asthma, bronchitis, etc. It is very necessary to find the causes and symptoms of chest pain and finally get the
treatment done. For more details refer cause of sharp chest pain