Coronary Artery Disease

If you have coronary artery disease, you may experience symptoms of angina, heart attack or heart failure.

Angina

An episode of angina is not a heart attack. However, people with angina may have a hard time telling the difference between angina and heart attack symptoms. Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when your heart muscle does not get enough blood.1

Angina may feel like pressure or a squeezing pain in your chest. The pain may also occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. It may also feel like indigestion. It is usually relieved within a few minutes by resting or by taking prescribed angina medicine. 1

Heart Attack

Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. It can include pain or numbness in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. Heart attack pain can sometimes feel like indigestion or heartburn. Shortness of breath often happens along with, or before chest discomfort. 2 Other symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, having nausea and vomiting, or feeling light-headed or dizzy. Symptoms vary, and some people have no symptoms. Know the symptoms of a heart attack so you can act fast to get treatment. 1

As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. 3

Heart Failure

In heart failure, the heart cannot pump enough blood through the body. The heart cannot fill with enough blood or pump with enough force, or both. Heart failure develops over time as the pumping action of the heart gets weaker. It can affect either the right, the left, or both sides of the heart. Heart failure does not mean that the heart has stopped working or is about to stop working. 4

When the heart is weakened, blood and fluid can back up into the lungs, and fluid builds up in the feet, ankles, and legs. People with heart failure often experience tiredness and shortness of breath. 5

Heart failure is a serious condition. Scientists estimate that 5 million people in the U.S. have heart failure and that number is growing. It contributes to 300,000 deaths each year.

Heart failure is most common in those who are age 65 years and older and is the number one reason older people are hospitalized. 6 It tends to be more common in men than in women, but because women usually live longer, the condition affects more women in their 70s and 80s. 7

Mitral Valve Prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) occurs when one of your heart’s valves doesn’t work properly. MVP is one of the more common heart valve conditions. Most people with MVP have no symptoms or problems, need no treatment, and are able to lead normal, active lives. 8

Much of the time, MVP doesn’t cause any problems. Rarely, blood can leak the wrong way through the floppy valve, which may cause shortness of breath, palpitations , chest pain, and other symptoms.

Palpitations are feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or beating too hard or fast. You may have these feelings in your chest, throat, or neck. They can occur during activity or even when you’re sitting still or lying down. 9

Many things can trigger palpitations, including:

  • Strong emotions
  • Vigorous physical activity
  • Medicines, such as diet pills and decongestants
  • Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and illegal drugs
  • Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disease or anemia  2

These factors make the heart beat faster or stronger than usual, or they cause occasional premature (extra) heartbeats . In these situations, the heart is still working normally, and the palpitations are usually harmless. 2

Sometimes palpitations are symptoms of arrhythmias. Arrhythmias are problems with the speed or rhythm of the heartbeat. Some arrhythmias are signs of heart disease, including heart attack , heart failure , heart valve problems , or heart muscle problems . However, less than half of the people who have palpitations have arrhythmias. 2

People can reduce or prevent palpitations by avoiding things that trigger them (such as stress and stimulants) and treating related medical conditions. If you have them, your doctor can check to see whether you need treatment or ongoing care. 2

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the quivering of the top right chamber of the heart. It is characterized by a rapid and irregular beat that can cause serious complications, even death. If the heart rate is rapid and irregular, a healthcare provider should be seen quickly. Ideal adult pulse is steady with regular rates of 60–80 beats per minute.