12 Possible Heart Symptoms Never to Ignore
Here are a dozen symptoms that may signal heart trouble.
1. Anxiety. Heart attack can cause intense anxiety or a fear of death. Heart attack survivors often talk about having experienced a sense of "impending doom."
2. Chest discomfort. Pain in the chest is the classic symptom of heart attack, and "the No. 1 symptom that we typically look for," But not all heart attacks cause chest pain, and chest pain can stem from ailments that have nothing to do with the heart.
Heart-related chest pain is often centered under the breastbone, perhaps a little to the left of center. The pain has been likened to "an elephant sitting on the chest," but it can also be an uncomfortable sensation of pressure, squeezing, or fullness. "It's not unusual for women to describe the pain as a minor ache," "Some women say the pain wasn't bad enough even to take a Tylenol."
Women, more so than men, can also experience a burning sensation in their chest, rather than a pressure or pain. "Sometimes people make the mistake that the pain comes from a stomach problem,"
3. Cough. Persistent coughing or wheezing can be a symptom of heart failure -- a result of fluid accumulation in the lungs. In some cases, people with heart failure cough up bloody phlegm.
4. Dizziness. Heart attacks can cause light headedness and loss of consciousness. So can potentially dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities known as arrhythmias.
5. Fatigue. Especially among women, unusual fatigue can occur during a heart attack as well as in the days and weeks leading up to one. And feeling tired all the time may be a symptom of heart failure.
Of course, you can also feel tired or fatigued for other reasons. How can you tell heart-related fatigue from other types of fatigue?
"If you don't feel well and all the wind is knocked out of your sails, don't try to figure it out on the Internet or from a book," "Wasting time is dangerous."
6. Nausea or lack of appetite. It's not uncommon for people to feel sick to their stomach or throw up during a heart attack. And abdominal swelling associated with heart failure can interfere with appetite.
7. Pain in other parts of the body. In many heart attacks, pain begins in the chest and spreads to the shoulders, arms, elbows, back, neck, jaw, or abdomen. But sometimes there is no chest pain -- just pain in these other body areas. The pain might come and go.
Men having a heart attack often feel pain in the left arm. In women, the pain is more likely to be felt in both arms, or between the shoulder blades.
8. Rapid or irregular pulse. Doctors say that there's nothing worrisome about an occasional skipped heartbeat. But a rapid or irregular pulse -- especially when accompanied by weakness, dizziness, or shortness of breath -- can be evidence of a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia. Left untreated, some arrhythmias can lead to stroke, heart failure, or sudden death.
9. Shortness of breath. People who feel winded at rest or with minimal exertion might have a pulmonary condition like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But breathlessness could also indicate a heart attack or heart failure.
"Sometimes people having a heart attack don't have chest pressure or pain but feel extremely short of breath," Goldberg says. "It's like they've just run a marathon when they haven't even moved." During a heart attack, shortness of breath often accompanies chest discomfort, but it can also occur before or without chest discomfort.
10. Sweating. Breaking out in a cold sweat is a common symptom of heart attack. "You might just be sitting in a chair when all of a sudden you are really sweating like you had just worked out,"
11. Swelling. Heart failure can cause fluid to accumulate in the body. This can cause swelling (often in the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen) as well as sudden weight gain and sometimes a loss of appetite.
12. Weakness. In the days leading up to a heart attack, as well as during one, some people experience severe, unexplained weakness. "One woman told me it felt like she couldn't hold a piece of paper between her fingers,"