Heart disease warning signs include: chest, arm, neck, and jaw pain, indigestion, sickness, sweating, a choking sensation and swollen ankles. Find out more...
Scare stories from friends, family and the media about people who have suddenly dropped dead with heart disease can be frightening. Around one in ten people in the UK have been diagnosed with some type of cardiovascular condition and others may have disease that has not been recognised. Could your loved one have a problem that is undetected and untreated?
Heart disease warning signs
Chest painChest pain is the classic symptom of heart disease, but even so it is frequently ignored or mistaken for indigestion or a muscular ache. Professor Newby from the British Heart Foundation says that anyone who feels unwell with chest pain at rest, should get urgent medical attention:
If you have chest pain and you feel extremely unwell, you should dial 999 and get an ambulance as soon as possible. If it’s a heart attack, it’s usually described as a heaviness, tightness or pressure in the chest; people will often describe it as ‘an elephant sat on my chest’ or ‘it felt like a tight band around my chest,’ that sort of constricting feeling.Prof Newby added that it’s also important to identify less severe heart disease so that it can be treated promptly:
If chest pains occur when you are exerting yourself, but go away when you stop, that would suggest it’s more likely to be angina. That would still mean you should go and see a doctor, but you don’t have to call 999.
If you would like to learn more about heart disease; the history, causes, and the various treatments, see Heart Disease: A Deeper Dive
Arm, neck and jaw painCardiac chest pain can also spread into the shoulder, down the arm or up into the jaw. Don’t assume that a dull ache or a heaviness in the arm is due to rheumatism or a trapped nerve. Pain that spreads down the arm, especially the left arm could be down to angina or a heart attack. As if that’s not enough, cardiac pain can also spread into the jaw, the neck and through to the back. Women are particularly likely to have this sort of atypical pain, so their heart disease is more at risk of being missed. Anyone with a spray or tablets of glyceryl trinitrate, should use their medication and seek medical advice urgently.
IndigestionToo many people mistake cardiac pain for indigestion. The problem is that the heart, the gullet and the stomach are all pretty close together in the body. Pain in one can easily be mistaken for pain in another. The location, spread and triggers of the pain can give a clue- but if your loved one is feeling faint, clammy or unwell, it’s better to get help and leave the detective work to the doctors.
SicknessLots of things from food poisoning to migraines to hangovers can cause nausea and vomiting. It’s a common symptom and one which in the vast majority of people won’t have a cardiac cause. However, chest pain with nausea and a feeling of malaise could be a sign of a heart problem, so seek medical advice.
SweatingIt’s normal to sweat when overly hot, but sweat can also be a sign of severe infections and with heart attacks.
If your loved one has chest pain and appears clammy, call an ambulance immediately.