Heart disease, or coronary heart
disease (CHD) to call it by its medical name, happens when
your arteries become narrowed through a process called Atherosclerosis.
When this happens the blood and oxygen supply to the heart
muscle is restricted, particularly when you exert yourself
and the demands of the heart muscle increase.
What are the symptoms of heart disease?
The main symptom of coronary
heart disease is angina, caused by insufficient oxygen reaching
your heart muscle because of the lessened blood flow. Angina
is a feeling of heaviness, tightness or pain in the middle
of your chest that may extend to, or just affect, your arms,
neck, jaw, face, back or abdomen.
It is most often experienced
during exertion - for example if you run for a bus, play a
game such a tennis or football, climb stairs or walk uphill.
It may come on in cold weather, after a heavy meal or when
you are feeling stressed. It can subside once you stop what
you are doing or take medication.
Unfortunately, for many people
the first indication that something is wrong is a heart attack,
or myocardial infarction. This happens when the blood supply
to a part of the heart muscle is interrupted or stops, usually
because of a blood clot in the coronary artery. The pain of
a heart attack maybe severe or maybe mistaken for indigestion
but unlike angina it doesn't go away. Other symptoms include
sweating, light-headedness, nausea or breathlessness which
unlike angina are not alleviated by rest.
The following symptoms are by
no means always due to coronary heart disease and could be
harmless or due to other medical conditions. However if you
experience any of them it is a good idea to make an appointment
to see your doctor:
- Unusual breathlessness
when doing light activity or at rest, or breathlessness
that comes on suddenly.
- Angina - chest pain,
heaviness or tightness in the chest that comes on during
exertion, emotional stress and may spread to arms, neck,
jaw, face, back or stomach.
- Palpitations - awareness
of your heart beat or a feeling of having a rapid and unusually
forceful heart beat, especially if they last for several
hours or recur over several days and/or cause chest pain,
breathlessness or dizziness.
- Fainting - although
not always a serious symptom, fainting is due to insufficient
oxygen reaching the brain which may be due to many reasons,
so you should report it to your doctor.
- Fluid retention or puffiness
- (oedema to use the medical term) is abnormal accumulation
of fluid in tissues such as ankles, legs, lungs and abdomen.
Although usually perfectly normal e.g. on a hot day, it
can be a sign that the heart is not pumping as well as it
should (heart failure).
- Bluish tinged fingernails or
around lips - known medically as cyanosis - it
can be a result of too little-oxygen in the blood.
- Fatigue - fatigue is
a very common symptom with numerous causes including depression.
It is always worth seeing the doctor if you feel unusually
tired, especially if it is combined with symptoms that can
not be explained.
- Severe crushing chest pain
that may come on at rest and is accompanied by sweating,
light-headedness, nausea or shortness of breath and lasts
more than 15 minutes may be a heart attack. Seek medical
help immediately by phoning 999 and asking for an ambulance.
This will ensure prompt treatment and less damage to heart
muscle may occur.
of Heart Disease