Heart Disease Symptoms

Each kind of heart disease has its own symptoms, but many heart problems have similar ones. How you feel depends on the type you have and how severe it is.

Learn to recognize your symptoms and what causes them. Call your doctor if you begin to have new ones or if they get more frequent or severe.

Coronary Artery Disease

The most common symptom is chest pain called angina. You may feel discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing, or a painful feeling in your chest.

Sometimes you can mistake those sensations for indigestion or heartburn. Although you usually feel angina in your chest, you may also notice it in your shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw, or back.

Some other symptoms you might get are:

Heart Attack

You may feel discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain in your chest, arm, or below the breastbone. The discomfort can move to your back, jaw, throat, or arm.

You may also notice:

During a heart attack, the symptoms may last 30 minutes or longer and don't get better when you rest or take medications by mouth. The symptoms can start as a mild discomfort that turn into significant pain.

Some people have a heart attack without having any symptoms. It happens more often among people with diabetes.

If you think you're having a heart attack, get emergency help right away. Call 911. You'll have less damage to your heart if you get quick treatment.


You may feel palpitations or pounding in your chest. Other symptoms are:

  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Weakness or fatigue

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia. You may have one or more of these symptoms:

  • Palpitations
  • Lack of energy
  • Dizziness
  • Chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath


Heart Valve Disease

You may feel things like:

  • Shortness of breath. You may notice this most when you're active 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 when you move around or go out in cold air.
  • Palpitations
  • Fainting

If your valve disease causes heart failure, you may also get symptoms such as:

  • Swelling of your ankles or feet or in your belly, which may cause you to feel bloated
  • Quick weight gain (2 or 3 pounds in a day is possible)
  • Fainting

Your symptoms may not match how serious your disease is. For instance, you may have no symptoms and yet have severe valve disease that needs quick treatment. Or you may have severe symptoms but tests may show you've only got minor valve disease.

Heart Failure

If you have this condition, you may have:

  • Shortness of breath when you're active or at rest, especially when you lie flat in bed
  • Cough that brings up white mucus
  • Quick weight gain (2 or 3 pounds in a single day is possible)
  • Swelling in your ankles, legs, and belly
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats

You may also have nausea, palpitations, and chest pain.

Like valve disease, your symptoms may not be related to how weak your heart is. For example, you may have many symptoms, but your heart may be only mildly weakened. On the other hand, you could have a severely damaged heart with few or no symptoms.

Congenital Heart Disease

This is heart disease you were born with. It may be diagnosed before birth, right after birth, during childhood, or not until adulthood. You might have congenital heart disease without any symptoms.

When you're an adult, your symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Limited ability to exercise
  • Symptoms of heart failure or valve disease

Congenital Heart Disease in Infants and Children

If your infant or child has congenital heart disease, he may have symptoms like:

  • Bluish tint to his skin, fingernails, and lips (cyanosis)
  • Fast breathing and poor eating
  • Poor weight gain
  • Lung infections
  • Unable to exercise


Heart Muscle Disease (Cardiomyopathy)

Many people with this condition have no symptoms or only minor ones and live a normal life. Others get symptoms that can get worse over time.

Some of the symptoms you may get are:

  • Chest pain or pressure (usually when you exercise, during rest, or after meals)
  • Heart failure symptoms
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles, and feet
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Palpitations

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


You may have pain in the center of your chest, and it could be sharp. It can move to your neck and sometimes your arms and back. It could feel worse when you lie down, take a deep breath, cough, or swallow. It might feel better when you sit forward.

You may also get a low-grade fever and your heart rate may go up.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on January 16, 2015



The American Heart Association

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