6 Signs of an Unhealthy Heart

Man experiencing chest pain from an unhealthy heart and heart condition.

October 06, 2022

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Michael Lim, M.D.
Sunil Khanna, M.D., FACC
Joseph Negusei, M.D.

Sometimes signs of an unhealthy heart may be overlooked or may not be obvious to you. However, paying close attention is critical: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Not everyone will have the same symptoms or experience all the symptoms of an unhealthy heart,” says Michael Lim, M.D., interventional cardiologist and chief of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Hackensack University Medical Center. “Men and women may show different symptoms of heart disease—especially coronary artery disease, the most common heart disease in the U.S.”

If you experience any of these six signs of an unhealthy heart, talk to your doctor about taking a closer look:

  1. Chest pain. Poor blood flow to the heart can cause pain or discomfort in the chest, a condition called angina. You may feel mild discomfort, tightness, squeezing or burning sensations. Most people don’t detect a true painful sensation. You may also feel discomfort in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen or back.
  2. Fatigue. Unusual or extreme tiredness can be a sign that something is amiss with the heart, especially if this is a sudden change in energy level.
  3. Heart palpitations. You may feel your heart beating quickly or unevenly. “An irregular heartbeat can be a sign of an arrhythmia or other heart conditions,” says Sunil Khanna, M.D., FACC, cardiologist at JFK University Medical Center. “There are also many other reasons why you might feel a fast or uneven heartbeat, such as lifestyle factors or medications.”
  4. Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in the arms or legs. These sensations may occur when blood vessels in your limbs narrow, caused by vascular disease. A cramping sensation in a leg while walking that goes away with rest is a potential sign of poor leg blood flow.
  5. Shortness of breath. Shortness of breath can be a symptom of several different heart conditions. It might be caused by poor blood flow from coronary artery disease, or from fluid build up into the lungs.
  6. Swelling in your legs, ankles or feet. You may also feel swelling in your hands or abdomen. Poor blood flow can also cause blood to back up into the veins and surrounding tissues.

“If you’re unsure if your symptoms are serious, it’s best to err on the side of caution and have it evaluated,” says Joseph Negusei, M.D., a cardiologist at Bayshore Medical Center. “That’s especially true if you have certain risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or obesity.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



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