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Heart Disease Health Center

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Understanding Heart Disease -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Heart Disease?

Each type of heart disease has its own symptoms, although there is some overlap. Bear in mind that some forms of heart disease may have no noticeable symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease?

Symptoms of coronary artery disease may include:

  • Angina, a discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing, or painful feeling in your chest; it can be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. Angina is usually felt in the chest, but may also be felt in the shoulder, arms, neck, throat, jaw, or back.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (irregular heart beats, skipped beats, or a "flip-flop" feeling in your chest)
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction or MI)

Symptoms of a heart attack may include:

  • Discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain in the chest or left arm
  • Fullness, indigestion, or a choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
  • Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat, or arm
  • Sweating, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
  • Extreme weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats

Heart attack symptoms usually last 30 minutes or longer, and are not relieved by rest or by taking a form of heart medication called nitroglycerin. However, some people have a heart attack without having any symptoms. A ''silent'' heart attack can occur among all people, though it occurs more often among people with diabetes.

If you think you are having a heart attack, DO NOT DELAY. Call for emergency help (dial 911 in most areas). Quick treatment of a heart attack is very important to lessen the amount of damage to your heart.

Heart Failure

Symptoms of heart failure may include:

  • Shortness of breath (often causes a hacking cough)
  • Quick weight gain (a weight gain of two or three pounds in one day is possible)
  • Swelling in ankles, legs, and abdomen
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Other symptoms include nausea, palpitations, chest pain, waking suddenly at night unable to breathe, and changes in sleep patterns

Heart failure symptoms may not be related to how weak your heart is. You may have many symptoms, but your heart function may be only mildly weakened. Or you may have a severely damaged heart, but no symptoms.

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