The Symptoms of Cardiovascular Disease You Need to Know About


Cardiovascular disease includes a broad category of issues that can affect your heart and circulatory system. However, the basic idea is your blood isn’t flowing properly through your body, whether that’s because the vessels are blocked, narrowed or stiffened, or because your heart isn’t functioning properly.

Many people don’t know they have heart disease until they have a cardiac event such as a heart attack, stroke or heart failure. It’s important to go for regular physicals, but not every exam will detect cardiac problems. That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms.

Here are some symptoms to remember in case you or a loved one experiences cardiac issues.


Symptoms of a Heart Attack

One mistake people make is assuming that men and women experience the same symptoms.1 The stereotypical symptoms are ones that men tend to have: chest pain (also known as angina), that feels like squeezing or pressure and shortness of breath. Women may experience these symptoms as well, but angina might look less typical, with burning or sharp chest pain and possibly pain in the jaw, abdomen, back or neck.2 Other symptoms more typical for women are extreme fatigue and nausea, as well as numbness in the legs or arms.3


Symptoms of Stroke (ischemic stroke)

About 87% of strokes are ischemic strokes when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is blocked by plaque. A blood clot can develop in the vessel as a result, stopping the flow to the heart at that point, or a clot can form and travel to the brain where it gets lodged in a small vessel.4 When that blood stops flowing, a person experiences symptoms like these: a drooping face, weakness in one arm and difficulty speaking, such as slurred speech.5


Heart Failure Symptoms

Heart failure is also known as congestive heart failure, signifying an ineffective heart pumping action. That means the heart is still pumping, but the body needs more oxygen and blood flow.6 There are a lot of symptoms of heart failure including shortness of breath, coughing/wheezing, lightheaded, swelling in the body due to extra fluid in the body tissues, nausea, lack of appetite, confusion and high heart rate.7Many of these symptoms are similar to that of a heart attack.


Arrhythmia Symptoms

An arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat, whether it’s beating too slowly, too quickly or just irregularly. You might notice an arrhythmia if you have symptoms including chest flutters, a racing heartbeat, discomfort or chest pain or you feel fatigued, dizzy, lightheaded or short of breath.8 Not all arrhythmias are harmful, but they may cause heart problems if they go on for too long because they can affect the heart function.


Symptoms of Heart Valve Problems

If your heart valve is not working properly, you might have an unusual heartbeat called a murmur. This can be detected by your doctor using a stethoscope. If you have symptoms, they might be fatigue, swelling in your body and shortness of breath – even when you’re lying down. If you’re exerting yourself, you might experience chest pain or abnormal heartbeats, whether racing or just irregular. Some people faint or are dizzy.9

With any of these symptoms, it’s important to get medical attention immediately because you never know if your heart issue needs immediate treatment.

About the Author:


Deborah Abrams Kaplan writes about health and medical topics for universities, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and medical websites. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, Dallas Morning News, San Francisco Chronicle, Woman's Day, Continental Airlines Magazine, Shape, and much more!


1 Mayo Clinic Diseases and Conditions: Heart Disease (July  29, 2014).

NIH: What are the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease (Aug. 21, 2014).

3 Mayo Clinic Diseases and Conditions: Heart Disease (July 29, 2014).

4 American Stroke Association: Ischemic Strokes (April 26, 2017).

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Comments 6
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