Feb 10, 2023 8 Critical Signs of Heart Disease You Should Never Ignore

Gary Rogal, MDNearly half of all U.S. adults have some type of cardiovascular disease, and it is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States according to the American Heart Association. It’s important to understand what symptoms to look out for that may indicate heart disease. Gary J. Rogal, MD, Medical Director for Cardiovascular Services at RWJBarnabas Health, shares signs that could mean it’s time to visit a doctor or seek medical attention.

  1. Chest pain or discomfort – this includes any new feelings of heaviness, tightness, or squeezing in the chest that could be a result of cholesterol buildup narrowing the arteries and limiting the blood supply to your heart. Even a mild new sensation may be an important sign of heart disease. Discomfort during rest is especially worrisome and is a sign you should contact your health care professional.
  2. Extreme fatigue and dizziness – ongoing tiredness and dizziness that affect your daily routine can be a sign of an impending heart attack. If that fatigue increases with physical activity, it may be an indication of heart failure.
  3. Body pain – depending on where the pain is, it could be the result of a different heart-related condition. Pain in the upper body, including the arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw or abdomen, are often warning signs of a heart attack. If the pain is located in the neck, back, jaw, throat or abdomen it may be a sign of heart disease.
  4. Nausea or profuse sudden sweating- if you’re experiencing nausea or profuse sudden sweating accompanied by other symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath and pain in the upper body, it may be a sign of a heart attack.
  5. Unexplained shortness of breath – If you find yourself short of breath with activity that in the past did not provoke this symptom, this may suggest narrowed coronary arteries—which could lead to heart attack – or congestive heart failure. Heart failure means the heart doesn’t properly pump blood and it is often the result of a heart attack.
  6. Swelling in the lower body- congestive heart failure causes blood flow out of the heart to slow and blood returning to the heart through the veins to back up. This can cause fluid to build up in the legs, ankles, feet or abdomen.
  7. Persistent coughing or wheezing- Blood that backs up in the veins due to congestive heart failure can also cause fluid to leak and build up in the lungs. Persistent coughing or wheezing especially when lying flat, often noted when going to bed, may be suggestive of heart failure.
  8. Family history of heart disease – certain types of cardiovascular disease are inherited so it’s important to get the facts on the health of parents, grandparents and siblings to help you manage heart disease risk.

In the case of a medical emergency call 911 or visit the emergency room. If you are experiencing any of the warning signs, reach out to your physician to schedule an appointment.

Whoever your heart beats for, our hearts beat for you. Connect with a top cardiovascular specialist at RWJBarnabas Health by calling 1-888-724-7123 or visit rwjbh.org.