By Osceola Regional’s Heart and Vascular Institute
The image of a man hunched over, clutching his chest in pain is a familiar one. It’s the universal symbol for a heart attack. Chest pain, along with shortness of breath and pain radiating down the arm, are often considered the standard symptoms of a major cardiac event.
But there are more subtle symptoms that could also signal heart disease — a condition that includes heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure.
Learn more about these five lesser-known signs and symptoms.
1. Sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, which almost always causes loud snoring, isn’t just a noisy habit that can keep a partner up at night. Snoring, whether it’s moderate or severe, causes a drop of oxygen in the blood and can damage your heart as you struggle to breathe while sleeping. If left untreated, it can cause high blood pressure, arrhythmias, heart attack and heart failure. If you or your partner snores, consider consulting a sleep specialist right away.
Dizziness or lightheadedness may indicate that your brain isn’t getting enough blood and it can be a subtle sign of a heart attack, especially in women, who often have atypical symptoms. Dizziness could also indicate an arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) or heart damage. If you’re experiencing dizziness along with other heart symptoms, get to the ER as quickly as possible.
A good workout isn’t the only thing that can cause you to break a sweat. If you start sweating suddenly — what’s often described as a “cold sweat”— while experiencing other symptoms, it could mean you’re having a heart attack. Sweating more than usual, without exertion, especially if associated with discomfort in the chest, arm, neck or jaw or with shortness of breath, should be taken seriously as a sign of coronary artery disease and you should get to the hospital immediately.
4. Fatigue or exhaustion
Most of us can feel worn out after a long day of dealing with work. However, extreme, unexplained fatigue — the kind that leaves you too beat to climb a short flight of stairs or carry your groceries — could also be a warning sign of something more serious, like a heart attack or heart disease, especially in women. One study published in the journal Circulation found that more than 70 percent of women experience unusual fatigue in the month leading up to their heart attacks
Heart disease and erectile dysfunction (ED) may both be caused by poor circulation, but problems in the bedroom usually occur first. This means that ED could be alerting you to current or future heart disease.
ED and heart attacks are both caused by plaque build-up in the arteries. Also, there’s a high prevalence of cardiovascular disease in patients with ED. And, patients with heart failure or coronary artery disease frequently have other medical problems, such as diabetes and hypertension, which can cause ED.
Other unusual signs and symptoms
- Heart failure: leg swelling when upright, mild cough and shortness of breath while lying down
- High blood pressure: undiagnosed sleep apnea and early morning headaches
- Heart disease: depression and anxiety
To keep your ticker in tip-top shape, stick with a heart-healthy diet, get daily exercise, keep stress levels low and get adequate sleep. If you think you are experiencing a cardiac event, call 911 immediately.
To set up a doctor’s appointment, call Osceola Regional’s Consult-A-Nurse® at (800) 447-8206 or visit, OsceolaRegional.com.
This content originally appeared on HCA’s Sharecare.com.