Heart issues can be sneaky and surreptitious, arriving suddenly and seemingly without warning. But oftentimes there are tip-offs—though people fail to recognize them.
Chest pain or soreness
Not everyone who has a heart attack does it Hollywood style (think clutching your chest and dropping to the floor). Intense pressure—”like an elephant standing on your chest,” says Whelton—should prompt you to call 911. Feel like you pulled a muscle in your chest? That could signal underlying cardiovascular disease.
“It doesn’t have to be a sharp pain,” says a doctor. “It could be subtle, and it sometimes radiates out to your shoulder, arm, neck, or jaw.” Chest pain that pops up during or following a workout or when you’re stressed is especially concerning, as it could signal a blood flow issue.
Shortness of breath
If light activity takes your breath away—especially if you used to be able to tackle a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing—that’s trouble. “If they notice major changes in their breathing or what they’re able to do, that’s a sign something may be going on.”- says doctor Simmons.
Breathing problems that come on when you lie down are also problematic (they could indicate valve disease), so be sure to bring that to your doctor’s attention.
Feeling nauseated or fatigued or experiencing a cold, clammy sweat can signal insufficient blood flow. Everyone gets these symptoms at times, but if they start after a bout of physical activity, see a doctor. Severe stomach upset can also be a red flag. Some women have indigestion during the days before a heart attack, but they don’t associate it with heart trouble so they put off seeking treatment.
Feeling lightheaded or woozy could be a sign of a blockage or valve-related issue, especially if it’s accompanied by the feeling that your heart is fluttering. Feel lightheaded whenever you stand up quickly may also be a sign of impending heart trouble.