If something went wrong with your heart, would you know it?
Not all heart problems come with clear warning signs. There is not always an alarming chest clutch followed by a fall to the floor like you see in movies. Some heart symptoms don’t even happen in your chest, and it’s not always easy to tell what’s going on.
“If you’re not sure, get it checked out,” says Charles Chambers, MD, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute.
That’s especially true if you are 60 or older, are overweight, or have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, says Vincent Bufalino, MD, an American Heart Association spokesman. “The more risk factors you have,” he says, “the more you should be concerned about anything that might be heart-related.”
Here are the 6 signs you should never ignore:
• Chest pain – or discomfort or tightness in the chest. Although women may experience some different symptoms than men, chest pain is still
the No. 1 warning sign for both sexes.
• Shortness of breath – especially while at rest
• Palpitations – the feeling your heart is racing, pounding, skipping a beat or fluttering
• Arm, neck, jaw or back pain – “If the discomfort begins or worsens when you’re exerting yourself, and then stops when you quit
exercising, you should get it checked out,” said Dr. Linton-Frazier.
• Fatigue – especially if it’s new or dramatic
• Nausea, lightheadedness or indigestion – This symptom is particularly common in women.
So, how can you tell what’s really going on?
The key is to know your risk factors.
“If you’re generally healthy and you wake up with what you think is the flu, you probably have the flu,” Dr. Linton-Frazier said. “But if you’re overweight, inactive or sedentary, have high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease, you should take your symptoms more seriously and see a doctor.”
Dr. Linton-Frazier also recommends you make the most of your doctor visit by:
• Bringing a list of symptoms and when they’re occurring
• Telling your doctor about any family history
• Talking about stress or anything that might contribute to a problem