Movies and TV have taught us the telltale sign of heart trouble: A sharp, distinct pain in the chest that’s immediately evident as an emergency. That’s not a great education. “Signs of heart disease can often be mild and so brief that they could be dismissed for something else or not even be noticed at all,” says Roshini Malaney, DO, a cardiologist with Manhattan Cardiology in New York City. Oftentimes, the heart sends subtle messages that’s something’s wrong, in the form of symptoms that can be felt from your head to your legs.
1. Tugging In Your Chest
Sometimes a heart attack won’t have you dramatically clutching your chest, just feeling that something’s not quite right. “Patients typically will complain of a pressure/tugging/discomfort, usually in the middle of their chest, sometimes that radiates down the left arm, or into the jaw,” says Jeremy Pollock, MD, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. “This can be associated with exercise or exertion, and relieved by rest.”
2. Shortness Of Breath
Feeling short of breath can be a sign of heart disease, says Goldberg. It could also signify lung disease such as asthma, COPD, pneumonia or a pulmonary embolism. In any case, if you find yourself unusually breathless, see your doctor ASAP.
3. Hearing Trouble
A 2018 Harvard study found that hearing loss was 54% more common in people with heart disease. “Heart disease impairs blood flow, and the inner ear, known as the cochlea, is extremely sensitive and can be impacted by a reduced blood flow, causing hearing loss,” says Lisa A. Perhacs, AuD, an audiologist and clinical education specialist at Signia. “Because the cochlea is one of the smallest organs of the body, hearing loss can be one of the first indicators of heart disease.”
4. Exercise Fatigue
If you don’t have the energy to complete workouts you used to finish handily, that could be the sign of circulation problems. “Fatigue or a limitation in exercise tolerance—or daily activities which are a change from the person’s baseline—can be a sign that the heart is unable to receive the increased blood flow it needs when it needs to work harder, such as with exercise,” says Arrash Fard, MD, a cardiologist with Adventist Health in Simi Valley, California. “This limitation in blood flow could be caused by buildup of cholesterol within the coronary arteries, the blood vessels the heart uses to supply itself with blood, nutrients and oxygen.”
5. Heaviness In Your Chest
Instead of a sharp pain, a heart attack can feel like a heavy weight. “Most people wrongly believe that heart attacks are always accompanied by severe chest pain. This is not true,” says Richard Wright, MD, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “Most of the time, the signs and symptoms are more subtle. Usually, people describe a feeling of oppressive discomfort and a heavy feeling that they don’t call pain, most often located in the center of the chest.”
6. Jaw Pain
Alone, throat or jaw pain is not a heart danger warning, but if coupled with pain or pressure that is radiating out from the center of your chest up to your throat and/or jaw, it could be a sign of a heart attack reports Harvard Health. “In some cases, unusual jaw, neck, or shoulder pain can be related to heart disease,” says Emani.