According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), around 7.6 million people live with a heart or circulatory disease in the UK: 4 million men and 3.6 million women.
Though various advancements in both detection and treatment over the past few years have helped lower these numbers, heart disease is still a prevalent issue not only in the UK but around the world.
From coronary artery disease to a full-blown heart attack, heart disease can lead to long-lasting health problems and, in worst cases, death.
So, how can you determine whether or not you're experiencing a potential heart problem? Symptoms such as chest pain might be the most common, but there are a handful of other signs you'll want to keep an eye out for when it comes to your heart's health.
When most people picture a heart attack, they imagine someone clutching their chest in pain. However, you will likely feel pain in your chest area if you have a heart attack or even a blocked artery.
This pain might include tightness, pressure, pinching, or a burning sensation. When experiencing a heart problem, these feelings will last more than a few minutes, whether you're resting or active.
Charles Chambers, MD, director of the Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute, notes that if this type of pain is quick and hurts to the touch, it's most likely not a heart problem.
However, should you be experiencing any chest pain, it's always best to get it checked out by a medical professional.
Overall Body Discomfort
Chest pain is a symptom that might alert you to something being wrong, but if you're feeling discomfort in other areas of your body, it's essential to take them seriously.
Pain such as:
- Leg pain - The BHF reports leg pain as a sign of PAD (peripheral arterial disease).
- Arm pain - Should you experience pain radiating down one or both of your arms, there's a good chance you're experiencing a heart attack.
- Back pain - Another sign of a heart attack, persistent back pain is reason enough to call 999.
- Jaw pain - Alone, this type of pain is most likely not related to your heart. However, if your chest pain spreads to your jaw or throat, you may be having a heart attack.
- Swollen ankles - Lower leg swelling is another sign of a heart problem. The BHF notes that heart failure can slow down the speed at which your body pumps blood, causing backups in the veins in your legs. This leads to bloating, as fluid may be building up in your tissues. If you notice any swelling, be sure to consult with a medical professional.
It's normal for your heart to pick up speed or skip a beat when you're feeling nervous, apprehensive, or simply excited. What's not normal is if these kinds of palpitations continue for more than just a few seconds or if you find them happening regularly. This could be a sign of a heart problem.
Coughing might not be what comes to mind when you think of a heart problem, but should your cough produce a white or pink mucus, this could be a symptom of heart failure. When your heart is working overtime, you'll notice this, leading to blood leaking back into your lungs.
If you're struggling with a cough that doesn’t get better, coupled with this coloured mucus, it's time to seek medical attention.
Extreme Fatigue or Lightheadedness
We all feel a little sluggish sometimes, but if you're much more tired than usual, it might be a sign of heart trouble.
If you can't get through your typical daily routine or you suddenly feel weak, see your doctor right away. Things like climbing the stairs or carrying in your shopping are simple tasks that might become difficult should your heart need medical attention.
Lightheadedness or feeling dizzy might also indicate a heart condition. If you lose your balance, feel faint, or consistently find yourself feeling unsteady on your feet, call a doctor immediately.
Professor Peter Weissberg, former Medical Director of the BHF and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist to Addenbrooke's Hospital, notes that if you feel out of breath while doing everyday activities, this could signify a severe heart condition.
Breathing harder is normal when exercising, but should you find yourself feeling breathless throughout the day, you might be struggling with coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation, or another life-threatening heart problem.
Indigestion and Nausea
Indigestion and nausea are typical symptoms for those who ate something their body didn't agree with, but they can also be symptoms of a heart condition.
Should you be experiencing any of the other symptoms listed here and indigestion or nausea to the point of vomiting, call 999 immediately. If you're at risk of heart disease and find yourself feeling unwell, it's always best to seek medical attention.
Find yourself breaking out into a sweat without any kind of physical exertion? This may signal a heart attack. Sudden sweating, coupled with chest pains, is a good reason to call an ambulance.
Prioritising an ECG Test
If you're worried about your heart health and want to avoid any of the above symptoms, it's important to prioritise taking an ECG test. Unfortunately, the NHS has been overwhelmed by the pandemic, leading waiting times for an ECG test to be up to 15 months.
Luckily, that's exactly why we created ECG At Home. We believe you should have access to fast, reliable test results that could save your life.
Our ECG tests can be self-fitted in the comfort of your own home, and you can even choose to review your results with a member of our experienced cardiology team in a private consultation if desired. You'll get the peace of mind you need knowing you're fully informed about your health and any heart problems you might be facing.
Click below to order your test, and please send us a message if you have any questions.
If you're looking for more resources for keeping your heart healthy, take a look at our blog, where we share essential information that will help you prevent heart disease.
Though heart conditions can be alarming, know that our experts are here to help. We'll analyse every single heartbeat recorded on your ECG test to produce a comprehensive report, with recommendations for you to pass on to your GP.
Order your test today and forget having to wait months for an NHS appointment.