Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. It manifests as a number of conditions including plaque build-up, arrhythmia, heart defects, heart attack and stroke.
Depending on the type and severity, the symptoms can be as mild as fatigue or as serious as fatal.
There are a number of tests to evaluate for heart symptoms such as a heart exams, various blood tests including a comprehensive cholesterol panel, stress tests, EKG, ultrasound and more.
Heart disease should not be missed and is more than crushing chest pain. If you are having these signs, tell your doctor right away.
Everyone has had the experience of standing up too quickly and having the room spin or go dark for a second. It can sometimes be a sign of more benign issues such as anemia or hypoglycemia. However it can also be due to a heart condition.
If you are routinely experiencing dizziness, please let your doctor know.
2) Swelling in the feet and hands
The heart is your primary pump for your circulation, and it pushes your oxygenated blood out into the arteries. The veins do not work on a pump system, relying instead on the contraction of muscles to get blood back up to the heart.
If you have heart disease, contraction ability may not be that effective, resulting in pooled blood in the extremities.
3) Shortness of breath
There are a variety of reasons for shortness of breath including illness, asthma, and anemia however if someone is not circulating their oxygen efficiently and the heart is not pumping correctly, then they become short of breath especially with exertion.
This is the most general symptom that applies to all diseases and conditions. However in the case of heart disease, if the reasons for it are addressed, the fatigue may readily improve.
Besides oxygen, the heart circulates a plethora of nutrients and hormones through the entire body, from top to bottom. If that does not occur adequately, then fatigue ensues.
It is important to recognize that these signs are very broad and could be the result of multiple causes. However, symptoms that do not resolve with treatment, or post-illness, should be more thoroughly evaluated to include a heart workup.
Not all heart disease manifests as intense chest pain and pain or numbness that radiates up into the jaw or down through the left arm. You may simply feel light-headed, dizzy, and short of breath without realizing your heart is at risk.
Also, be aware if you have a strong family history as well as risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. Talk with your doctor about your risk factors and appropriate testing today.
1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Heart Disease Facts. Retrieved from
2) Eckhardt, A., Devon, H., Piano, M. Ryan, C., and Zerwic, J. (2014). Fatigue in the presence of coronary heart disease. Retrieved from
3) Witte, K., and Clark, A. (2007). Why does chronic heart failure cause breathlessness and fatigue? Retrieved from
Reviewed February 17, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith