People can go years with no idea they have something wrong with their heart. Symptoms can be vague and subtle and many heart conditions are ‘hidden’ – meaning they’re not obvious from the outside.
“Hidden heart conditions often go undiagnosed for too long, until something goes wrong or it’s too late,” says Sindy Jodar, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF). “That’s why it is important to never ignore the signs of heart disease and get a check up, just to be sure.”
While some warning signs are easy to spot – such as severe chest pain and collapse – there are also many little indicators that something could be wrong with your heart or circulatory system. These won’t necessarily mean you have a heart problem, but it’s always best to have them investigated.
From tiredness and nausea to fainting, here are some of the less obvious symptoms everyone needs to know about.
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, feeling unusually tired, especially if it’s not related to exertion, should be investigated,” says Dr Khan.
It could be due to something such as anaemia, a virus, or even linked to mental health. It could also be related to your heart, so it is important to have it checked out.
“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 speak to a doctor.
If your ankles are looking particularly puffy, or your general tummy area is constantly feeling swollen for no apparent reason, get a check up.
“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 getting 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 such as ECGs, echocardiograms, stress tests, blood tests, or more specialised cardiac assessments,” he adds.
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.”
“Don’t ignore feeling hot, clammy and quite sweaty when you haven’t been doing strenuous exercise,” 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? Ask your doctor to take a look.
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.”
Were you aware of these subtle warning signs? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
– With PA
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.