What are the signs and symptoms of heart (cardiovascular) 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 sweating and nausea.
  • The symptoms tend to be brought on by activity and get better with rest.
  • Some people may have indigestion and nausea while others may have upper abdominal, shoulder, or back pain.
  • Unstable angina is the term used to describe symptoms that occur at rest, waken the patient from sleep, and do not respond quickly to nitroglycerin or rest.

Other heart (cardiovascular) disease symptoms and signs

Not all pain from heart disease have the same signs and symptoms. 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 cardiovascular 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 cause symptoms to occur and it may take longer for those symptoms to get better with rest. This change in exercise tolerance is helpful in making the diagnosis.

Often the first signs and symptoms of heart disease may be a heart attack. This can lead to crushing chest pressure, shortness of breath, sweating, and perhaps sudden cardiac death.

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