Heart Disease - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of heart disease?

The classic symptoms of angina, or pain from the heart, are described as a crushing pain or heaviness in the center of the chest with radiation of the pain to the arm (usually the left) or jaw. There can be associated shortness of breath or sweating. The symptoms tend to be brought on by activity and get better with rest. Some patients may complain of indigestion and nausea while others may have upper abdominal, shoulder, or back pain.

Unfortunately, not all pain from coronary artery disease presents in this manner. The more we learn about heart disease, the more we realize that symptoms can be markedly different in different groups of people. Women, people who have diabetes, and the elderly may have different pain perceptions and may complain of overwhelming fatigue and weakness or a change in their ability to perform routine daily activities like walking, climbing steps, or doing household chores. Some patients may have no discomfort at all.

Most often, the symptoms of heart disease become worse over time, as the narrowing of the affected coronary artery progresses over time and blood flow to that part of the heart decreases. It may take less activity to provoke symptoms and it may take longer for those symptoms to resolve with rest. This change in exercise tolerance is helpful in making the diagnosis.

Too often, however, the first presentation of heart disease may be a myocardial infarction, where a plaque ruptures causing one of the coronary arteries to occlude and prevent blood flow to the heart. This can lead to crushing chest pressure, shortness of breath, sweating, and perhaps sudden cardiac death.

Return to Heart Disease (Coronary Artery Disease)

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Comment from: Chris, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: March 11

After doing some heavier than normal work the previous day, I woke up around 2 or 3 AM feeling sickly and sweaty for about 15 minutes but then slowly felt better the next day. I ignored the symptoms and felt good for 2 weeks till the same symptoms occurred again. I called 911, was taken to hospital and had 4 stents put in around my heart veins. That was 4 years ago and am doing fine.

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