10 heart symptoms you should never ignore

The image most people have of someone having a heart attack comes from the movies. Suddenly and without warning, someone clutches their chest, moans, and falls to the ground, dead.

But this cinematic version of a heart attack is so misleading.

In truth, there are plenty of warning signs, most of which wouldn’t show up on camera, to alert you that something is very wrong and that you should seek help.

While it’s true that some of these symptoms may be due to other things besides heart trouble, you should never ignore or try and second-guess any of these ten classic heart symptoms…

10 classic heart symptoms

Chest pain. This is the most common sign of a heart attack. But the pain isn’t always crushing or unbearable. Sometimes it’s more just a feeling of discomfort, a squeezing or heaviness in your chest. You might even think it’s just heartburn. It might last a few minutes or more and may go away and come back.

Arm or back pain. This includes a feeling of heaviness, or that your arms are “useless,” and could be a sign of angina or a heart attack.

Be suspicious if this pain comes out of nowhere, or wakes you up at night, and if it’s not a pain you feel in a particular joint or muscle, but is more of a generalized pain sensation.

Men typically feel it in their left arm, while for women, both arms may hurt.

Neck or jaw pain. The pain of a heart attack may radiate up through the spinal cord, causing you to feel pain or tightness on one or both sides of your lower jaw. Your neck may also ache, or you could have a choking or burning sensation in your throat.

Unusual fatigue.  It’s normal for a busy person to feel tired every so often. But suddenly feeling exhausted when you usually wouldn’t, is a red flag.

Feeling exhausted after walking to the bathroom or feeling way more tired than normal after a routine round of exercise, means something isn’t right.

Fainting and nausea. Fainting happens when your blood pressure is low. Your heart isn’t pumping enough blood, and your brain isn’t receiving enough oxygen.

Again, people faint when overheated and for other reasons, but never ignore a fainting spell, especially if it’s combined with nausea and/or lack of appetite for no apparent reason.

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Sweating and trouble breathing. You may feel cold and clammy, or break out in a sweat, even if you’re not exercising or moving around. You may feel short of breath — as if you’d run a marathon, even if you haven’t moved off the couch all day. And lying down may make it even harder to breathe.

Coughing and wheezing. When your heart isn’t pumping all the blood and oxygen your body needs, heart failure results. Shortness of breath and a regular cough can be signs of heart failure. Blood and fluids may back up into the lungs, you may hear a rattling sound when you inhale, and you might cough up pinkish mucus.

Swelling. As blood flow out of your heart slows down, blood going back up to your heart through the veins can back up and cause fluid to collect in spots it shouldn’t. Many people with heart trouble notice that their shoes are suddenly too tight as fluid builds up in the feet and ankles.

Irregular heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation (AFib) causes your heart to flutter or beat irregularly. Some people say it feels like a fish flopping around inside their chest.

Left untreated, AFib can lead to blood clots and stroke. If you feel lightheaded, short of breath, or tired, even without an irregular heartbeat, it could be a sign of AFib.

Loud snoring. If this happens every night, you could have sleep apnea, a condition where the airway is closed off periodically by soft tissue, which causes loud snoring.

Sleep apnea is linked to atrial fibrillation. Left untreated, it raises your risk of life-threatening heart trouble.

When to call 911

When it comes to a heart attack, quick treatment can cut down the chances of permanent damage to the heart. Call 911 if you or someone you’re with has:

  • Pain, pressure or squeezing in the chest
  • Pain or discomfort that spreads to the shoulders, back, neck or arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting
  • Sweating and nausea

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Heart symptoms you shouldn’t ignore — Web MD


Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.