Spot the red flags – Warning signs and symptoms of heart disease

New Delhi: The heart is the most important organ, whose job is to pump blood throughout the body. However, we put the heart through so much everyday.

Unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity, use of tobacco etc., can lead to diseases like arrhythmia, heart clogging, high cholesterol and other cardiovascular diseases.

A person diagnosed with any of these is evidently at a higher risk of a heart attack. Heart problems are still very much one of the biggest killers and the dangers of acquiring heart disease loom large over those who hold an unhealthy lifestyle close to their heart.

It is probably for this reason that the World Health Organisation (WHO) founded World Heart Day in the year 2000 – to inform people around the globe that heart disease and stroke are the world’s leading causes of death, claiming 17.3 million lives each year. It is celebrated on September 29th every year.

This year’s theme for World Heart Day is ‘Share the Power’, encouraging people across the world to take care of their heart and inspire others to do the same.

Therefore, this World Heart Day, we tell you five warning signs and symptoms of heart disease so that you don’t ignore the red flags. Have a look!

What is heart disease?

Roughly defined, heart disease refers to conditions that include diseased vessels, structural problems and blood clots.

It is an umbrella term for any type of disorder that affects the heart. When your heart begins to fail, it means it is no longer operating at its best and is unable to pump blood effectively.

This may be due to some form of damage to the muscles of the heart, a chronic high blood pressure problem, faulty heart valves, a genetic problem (congenital heart disease), heart valve disease, and complications from rheumatic fever (causing rheumatic heart disease).

The trigger could also be coronary artery disease, which leaves your arteries clogged with cholesterol or plaque, blocking them partially or almost completely preventing normal blood flow.

According to WHO (World Health Organization) and the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. The number of US adults diagnosed with heart disease stands at 26.6 million (11.3% of adult population).

Coronary heart disease or ischemic heart disease is the most common form of heart disease.

If you have this problem, your heart muscles are unable to receive the oxygen and blood they need, leading to symptoms like chest pain, arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, and even heart attacks.

Pain:

Pain is one of the most coomon and widely known symptoms of heart disease. Also known as angina or chest pain, it is a result of inadequate oxygen-rich blood supply to the heart muscle.

Strange as it may seem, women and men have different symptoms of pain –

Where the pain is: Women usually complain of pain in the neck, jaw, abdomen, throat, or back unlike men, who have chest pain more often.

The trigger: For women, the pain may occur during rest or even while sleeping and not just during a physical activity. Mental stress is likelier to trigger pain in women. In men, physical activity worsens their pain. When they rest, the pain usually goes away.

Feeling of pain: Women may feel a sharp burning chest pain, but men experience a squeezing sensation or pressure in the chest. The more the plaque buildup, the worse the pain.

Spotting a heart problem:

Pain is just the beginning. There are other warning signs you need to watch out for to spot a heart problem before it gets worse.

Fortunately, problems like heart attack and heart failure do have red flags that can help you save your own life or someone else’s if you notice them in time.

In this case, if you or a loved one is experiencing heart failure or a heart attack, get emergency medical attention as fast as possible.

If you are alone, call an ambulance and then inform a family member or friend.

Signs of heart arrhythmia:

Irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia could cause a flutter in your chest. Leaving it unchecked could trigger more dangerous symptoms listed below:

  • Feeling of heart “skipping a beat” or a fluttering in the chest
  • Rapid heartbeat, pounding in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling faint, lightheaded, or actually fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest
  • Cardiac arrest

Signs of a heart attack:

These warning signs will help you catch a heart attack before it happens or as it is starting.

Pain in the jaw/neck/back:

Pain or even discomfort in the jaw, back, or neck may be a sign of an impending heart attack.

Pain in the chest:

Discomfort or pain in the chest could be a sign of an oncoming heart attack.

Pain in the shoulders/arms:

Even painful arms or shoulders could be a sign of a heart issue. More than women, men are more likely to have pain in the left arm during a heart attack.

Lightheadedness/dizziness:

If you feel faint, dizzy or weak, especially combined with other symptoms, this may be due to a heart attack. Women tend to experience this symptom more than men.

Shortness of breath:

Finding it hard to breathe? It may be because your heart is struggling to supply oxygen and blood.

Nausea:

Women may feel nauseous if and when they are experiencing a heart attack.

Heartburn and indigestion:

Another symptom more common in women than in men is the feeling of indigestion which is often ignored in the hope that it will eventually go away.

Tiredness/fatigue:

Feeling of extreme exhaustion and tiredness, especially if you have other signs accompanying this, may be due to a heart attack.

Fluttering in the chest:

Also known as palpitations, this fluttering in the chest can be caused by a heart attack or heart problem. However, since there are other harmless reasons for this like anxiety or dehydration, you are advised to get yourself checked to be sure.

Better to be safe than sorry!

Getting timely medical attention is critical and may allow you to recover better and faster.

Do you know the early warning signs of heart failure? All you need to do is remeber ‘FACES’.

F – Fatigue

A – Activity limitation

C – Congestion

E – Edema

S – Shortness of breath

Apart from these symptoms, some people also experience confusion, memory loss and disorientation. Lack of appetite is also a possible sign. 

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