I’m a GP – 8 subtle warning signs that something is wrong with your HEART
- If there is something wrong with the heart, it can take years to be diagnosed
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It’s the most vital muscle in the body, pumping oxygen and nutrients to all organs and tissues to keep you alive.
But if there is something wrong with the heart, it can take years for problems to be diagnosed.
Symptoms can be vague and many heart conditions are ‘hidden’ — meaning they’re not obvious from the outside.
Sindy Jodar, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), warns it’s often only when something goes wrong, or it’s too late, that a condition is spotted.
‘That’s why it is important to never ignore the signs of heart disease and get yourself checked, just to be sure,’ she says.
While some warning signs are easy to spot — such as severe chest pain — others are more vague and hard to pinpoint.
Here, experts share some of the less obvious symptoms of a heart condition.
While some warning signs (pictured) are easy to spot — such as severe chest pain — others are more vague and hard to pinpoint
Feeling unusually tired
Dr M Adil U Khan, a GP at Pall Mall Medical, says you should not ‘ignore or downplay unusual levels of tiredness’.
While it’s normal to feel exhausted if you’ve been very busy or lacking sleep, he adds: ‘Feeling unusually tired, especially if it’s not related to exertion, should be investigated.’
It could be due to something like anaemia, a virus, or even linked to mental health. It could also be related to your heart, so it is important to have it investigated.
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‘Look out for subtle discomfort in different areas of your body, including discomfort or pain in the jaw, neck, back, or stomach, which can be associated with a heart problem,’ says Dr Khan.
If symptoms are out of the norm for you and aren’t going away, it’s always best to get them checked.
Perhaps you have noticed your ankles look particularly puffy, or maybe it’s your general tummy area that’s constantly swollen for no apparent reason.
‘Unexplained swelling, known as oedema, in the legs, ankles or abdomen, may also be signs of heart failure,’ explains Dr Khan.
Vomiting and a choking sensation
Sudden vomiting or a choking sensation in your throat is something to be wary of too.
‘While not every bout of nausea means there could be something serious happening, feeling sick combined with other aches and pains, such as severe chest pain, should ring an alarm bell,’ says Ms Jodar.
Yes, it could be a stomach bug, but if you are having sudden spells of vomiting and nausea more regularly and you’re not sure why, don’t delay in get things checked out.
If you experience sudden fainting, this is a big indicator of something being awry.
‘If fainting or any other symptom becomes a problem, consult a healthcare provider and schedule an appointment with a doctor or cardiologist,’ says Dr Khan. ‘Discuss your symptoms, medical history and risk factors with them.
‘Your healthcare provider will assess your vital signs and perform a physical examination.
‘Depending on your symptoms and risk factors, you may undergo diagnostic tests like ECGs, echocardiograms, stress tests, blood tests, or more specialised cardiac assessments.’
Shortness of breath
Struggling to catch your breath is not a trivial matter.
‘Anyone experiencing shortness of breath during everyday activities or at rest should see their doctor,’ says Dr Khan.
This is especially the case if it’s accompanied by chest pain – even if it doesn’t seem especially severe.
Dr Khan adds: ‘Mild chest discomfort should always be investigated, but some people mistake this for indigestion or muscular pain.’
‘Feeling hot, clammy and quite sweaty when you haven’t been doing strenuous exercise shouldn’t be ignored,’ adds Ms Jodar.
‘If this is combined with chest pains, it’s important you get yourself looked at.’
Heart rate irregularities
Does your pulse sometimes feel jumpy or too fast? Get it checked with your doctor.
Dr Khan says: ‘Smartwatches and fitness trackers can provide valuable data about your heart rate and may detect irregularities to some extent. They can help track general trends in heart rate, especially during physical activity or rest.
‘However, they are not a substitute for medical-grade monitoring and evaluation…
‘Any concerning symptoms should be evaluated by a healthcare professional for a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis.’
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