You may know that one in every four Americans dies of heart disease. But how much do you really know about the condition and the symptoms it causes?
First things first, “heart disease” isn’t actually a condition at all. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses multiple conditions that affect your heart, including coronary artery disease.
This spectrum of heart-related diseases can cause many different symptoms. You’d probably recognize chest pain as a symptom of heart disease. But there are some other, less recognized symptoms that you should know.
What Heart Disease Looks Like
Because heart disease actually includes multiple medical conditions, there are many different symptoms that can indicate something is wrong with your heart. Heart disease can develop over time, or the symptoms can come on quickly, alerting you to danger.
When you see a heart health issue depicted on TV, you often see a male experiencing a heart attack with significant chest pain. While chest discomfort is common, it’s not the only symptom of heart health problems—and women are more likely to experience other symptoms.
These lesser-known symptoms can all be symptoms of heart disease and related conditions:
- Back, abdomen or jaw pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Shortness of breath
Coughing or wheezing and swelling of your legs and feet can also be an indication that your heart isn’t performing optimally.
Women and Heart Disease Symptoms
There’s a common misconception that heart disease is a “man’s disease.” The reality is that women are slightly less likely to experience and die from heart disease.
In fact, while one in 39 women will die of breast cancer, one in five women will die of some type of heart disease. That makes it important for women to know their risk factors and take steps to lower their risk.
But it’s also particularly important for women to be well-versed in the variety of symptoms that can accompany a heart attack. While women can—and do—experience chest discomfort as part of heart attacks, they’re much more likely to report symptoms that may not seem to be a heart attack at all.
Some of the symptoms we outlined above, such as fatigue and back pain, may feel related to normal daily routines. Others, including nausea, may feel related to symptoms of indigestion or some other minor illness.
The bottom line is: It’s always better to be safe and have symptoms checked out than to disregard symptoms as minor and have them be something big. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience the symptoms outlined above or simply don’t feel right.