Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
Every year, about 659,000 Americans die from heart disease, which is about one in every four deaths. (1)
Unfortunately, many people do not realize they have heart disease until they have a heart attack.
By then, it may be too late to treat the condition effectively.
That is because the early signs of heart disease are often subtle and easy to ignore.
This is why it is so important to be aware of the early signs of heart disease and to see a doctor if you experience any of them.
Here are some early signs of heart disease that you should not ignore:
1. Chest pain
The most common early sign of heart disease is chest pain or discomfort.
This can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest.
It often comes and goes, and maybe worse with activity or when lying down.
Learn more: 10 Common Causes of Chest Pain
2. Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath is another common early symptom of heart disease.
This may happen even when you are at rest or doing very little activity.
It can be a sign that your heart is not pumping enough blood, or that the arteries are blocked and cannot carry enough oxygen-rich blood to your heart.
3. Pain in the jaw, neck, or arms
Heart attack or angina can cause pain in the jaw, neck, or arms.
This pain may be dull, achy, or sharp. It may come and go, or it may be constant.
Often these are mistakenly thought to be due to muscle pain, toothache, or strain.
Severe fatigue and weakness can also be signs of heart disease such as heart failure or heart valve problems.
This fatigue may be different from the “normal” fatigue you feel after a long day or week.
Moreover, studies have linked chronic fatigue to an increased risk of heart disease.
For example, people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are more likely to have coronary artery disease than people without CFS. (2)
Learn more: The Most Common Causes Of Fatigue
5. Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet
Swelling in the extremities is often a sign of heart failure, which occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body.
This can cause fluid to build up in the tissues, leading to swelling.
6. Dizziness or lightheadedness
Dizziness or lightheadedness can be a sign of low blood pressure.
This can happen if the heart is not pumping enough blood, or if there is a blockage in the arteries that prevents blood from flowing to the brain.
7. Irregular heartbeat
An irregular heartbeat, also called arrhythmia, is another common sign of heart disease.
This can feel like fluttering, skipping, or thumping in the chest.
It can be caused by a variety of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease, abnormal heart valves, heart attack, heart failure, and cardiomyopathy. (4)
In some cases, it can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as atrial fibrillation (a type of arrhythmia that increases the risk of stroke).
Sweating, especially when you are not exerting yourself or in a warm environment, can be a sign of congestive heart failure or a heart attack.
In most cases, sweating with heart disease is accompanied by other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, or nausea.
9. Dry or persistent cough
Heart infection or heart failure can cause a dry or persistent cough.
This cough may worsen when lying down.
Also, according to HealthLine, dry or persistent cough is more common in people with coronary artery disease and high blood pressure. (5)
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor.
They can help determine if your symptoms are caused by heart disease or another condition.
Early diagnosis and treatment are important for preventing more serious health problems.