Would you recognize that you had something wrong with your heart? Do you know what the early warning signs are for cardiovascular disease?

In films and on television we often see someone suddenly clutch their chest and collapse to the floor in a dramatic fall, but is this actually a good representation of what happens?

Understanding the signs for heart-related health problems

Of course, someone going into cardiac arrest might just fall and collapse in the way they do on screen but this isn’t the only way someone can realize they have a heart-related health problem. Many heart problems don’t even manifest in the chest and it’s often difficult to know what’s happening. 

The fact is, if you are not sure and have some new, strange symptoms, it’s always best to get checked out. This is especially true for people over the age of 60 or those who have other conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. For people who have a lot of risk factors, there is more of a concern when new symptoms arise. Here are some examples of signs of heart problems:

Chest Pain

This is by far the most common symptom that something is wrong with the heart. If you have a heart attack or a blocked artery, you’ll no doubt feel pain, pressure, or tightness in your chest. Many people report how it feels as though something heavy like an elephant is sitting on their chest. Some people report a burning or pinching feeling. 

This pain is usually present for more than a few minutes or longer and it can happen at any point, whether you’re doing a physical activity or when you’re resting. If the pain is brief or if it’s a part that hurts when you push or touch it, it’s likely that it won’t be your heart but you should still get it checked out. For symptoms that are severe and unrelenting, you should seek emergency medical assistance right away. 

It’s important, though, to bear in mind that it’s possible to have a heart attack or heart problems without feeling pain at all. This is particularly true for women.

Stomach Pain, Heartburn, Indigestion, or Nausea

Some people experience these symptoms when they have a heart attack. Some people even vomit. As we’ve said above, women can experience heart attacks differently from men and this type of symptom is much more likely to be reported by women.

Upset stomachs happen for lots of different reasons so it is possible that it’s not to do with the heart but it is always worth remembering that these are heart attack symptoms too.

Pain spreading to the arm

This is also a classic symptom of heart attacks. Typically, the pain will radiate down a person’s left side. The pain usually starts in the chest before moving outward.

Feeling lightheaded or dizzy

Dizziness doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having a heart attack but if it comes with shortness of breath or chest discomfort you should call a doctor. Dizziness can be present during heart attacks before a person’s blood pressure drops when the heart can’t pump efficiently.

Jaw or throat pain

Just like if you feel dizzy, if jaw or throat pain occurs alone it is probably not related to your heart. But, if there is a pain in your chest radiating towards the jaw or throat then it might be a heart attack symptom.

Sweating

A cold sweat for no reason is a heart attack symptom if it happens with other symptoms. 

Swollen feet, ankles and legs

If you have swollen feet, ankles or legs it might mean that your heart isn’t pumping as effectively as usual. When it can’t pump properly then blood builds up in your veins and causes swelling. Bloating can also be caused by heart failure that makes it more difficult for your kidneys to get rid of excess water and salts from your body.

Heart beating irregularly

When you are excited or nervous your heart might add or skip a beat occasionally. But if you feel that this is happening often for no reason, you should tell a doctor.

Final thoughts about cardiovascular disease signs

Knowing the signs of heart problems is one thing but preventing problems is another. Heart disease is a largely preventable condition if we look after our health and wellbeing. It’s never too late to make changes to an unhealthy lifestyle to try to improve heart health.