According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the signs and symptoms of coronary heart disease may differ between men and women. Usually, coronary heart disease is “silent” and may not be diagnosed until a person has symptoms or warning signs of a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia.
A common symptom of coronary heart disease is angina, or chest pain/discomfort that occurs in your heart muscle when it doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood.
Men: Often feels like pressure or squeezing in the chest. Angina usually tends to worsen with physical activity and go away with rest.
Women: Can experience same symptoms as men. Women also tend to experience a sharp, burning chest pain and are more likely to have pain in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen, or back. Women who have coronary microvascular disease tend to have angina symptoms occur during routine daily activities rather than while exercising.
The severity of angina varies and the pain can get worse or occur more frequently as the buldup of plaque continues to narrow the coronary arteries.
Usually, in both men and women, chest discomfort/pain is present. It can also cause upper body discomfort in one or both of the arms, the back, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach. Other heart attack symptoms are light-headedness and dizziness, which occur more often in women than in men.
Women tend to report back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, or breathing problems. Men are more likely than women to break out into a cold sweat and report pain in the left arm during a heart attack.
Heart failure doesn’t mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. It means that your heart can’t cope with the demands of everyday activities. It can cause shortness of breath and fatigue that tends to increase with physical exertion. Heart failure can also cause swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, and veins in the neck.
An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate/rhythm of the heartbeat. The heart can beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or with an irregular rhythm. Some people describe arrhythmias as fluttering or thumping feelings or skipped beats in their chests (palpitations).
Some arrhythmias can cause your heart to suddenly stop beating can lead to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA causes loss of consciousness and death if not treated right away.
Common symptoms of broken heart syndrome are chest pain and shortness of breath. These symptoms tend to occur suddenly in people who have no history of heart disease. Arrhythmias or cardiogenic shock also may occur. Cardiogenic shock is a condition in which a suddenly weakened heart isn’t able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. People with broken heart syndrome often experience:
Recovery time is usually quickly within days or weeks (as compared with the recovery time of a month or more for a heart attack).
Symptoms of heart valve disease may include:
If valve disease causes heart disease, symptoms may include:
Symptoms of heart valve disease do not always relate to the seriousness of your condition. You may have no symptoms at all and have severe valve disease, requiring prompt treatment.
Many people with heart muscle disease have no symptoms or only minor symptoms and live a normal life. Other people develop symptoms which progress and worsen as heart function worsens. Symptoms can occur at any age and may include:
Symptoms of pericarditis may include:
To find out more about how heart disease is diagnosed and what tests can be done to do so, click here.