Heart disease causes over 650,000 deaths every year in the United States — about one death every 40 seconds. With those numbers, it’s not surprising that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men.
When most of us think of heart disease, we think of the images we see in films: someone clutching their chest and crumpling to the ground in agony.
The problem is, while heart problems can cause pain — even excruciating pain — you can have heart disease without having any discomfort at all. That can make it really hard to recognize the signs of disease, especially in the early stages.
At Vein & Cardiovascular Center, Ashish Pal, MD, uses advanced diagnostics to identify and treat heart disease as early as possible. Here’s what he wants you to know about heart disease and the less common symptoms it can cause.
Heart disease symptoms
Heart disease is a group of diseases and conditions that affect your heart muscle.
The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). Other types include congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, and heart valve disease. Your heart can also develop an infection.
Different types of heart disease can cause different symptoms, including the following nine.
1. Extreme fatigue
We all feel tired from time to time, especially after a day of heavy exertion. But if you find yourself feeling exhausted after a routine activity, like climbing stairs — especially if it hasn’t caused exhaustion in the past — it could be a problem with your heart.
If your heart isn’t pumping blood normally, your brain may not get the oxygen-rich blood it needs to function as it should, leaving you feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
3. Shortness of breath
This symptom happens with different types of heart disease. With congestive heart disease, for instance, fluid buildup in your lungs makes it harder to breathe, especially during or after physical activity.
4. Chronic cough
People with congestive heart failure are also prone to coughing, triggered by excess fluid in their lungs.
5. Persistent indigestion or stomach pain
Plenty of people have occasional indigestion, but if you find yourself having heartburn, indigestion, or even nausea on a regular basis, it could be a sign of heart disease.
6. Swollen ankles
When your heart isn’t pumping efficiently, it’s harder for blood to return from the farthest parts of your body — your feet. As fluid collects, your ankles swell (and sometimes your hands, too).
7. Heart palpitations
A little occasional fluttering is usually nothing to worry about. But if you continually have palpitations or a rapid or irregular heartbeat, it could be a sign of an arrhythmia, a valve problem, or another heart-related problem.
8. Chest pressure
Heart attacks in particular may be associated with sensations of chest pressure or a sensation of tightness or fullness in your chest.
9. Jaw pain
Heart issues — particularly heart attacks — can also cause pain in your jaw or throat. Some people may have pain in their arms, neck, back, or shoulders.
Heart disease signs and symptoms can be subtle, particularly in the early stages of the disease. If you have any of these symptoms or have risk factors for heart disease, scheduling a cardiovascular examination could save your life.
To learn more about the cardiovascular care and treatments Dr. Pal provides at the Vein & Cardiovascular Center offices in Orlando, Sebring, and Davenport, Florida, book an appointment online or over the phone today.