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Heart disease symptoms

Each type of heart disease has different but often similar symptoms, depending on the type and severity of the condition. Learn to recognise your symptoms and the situations that cause them. Seek medical advice if you begin to have new symptoms or if they become more frequent or severe.

Symptoms of coronary artery disease

The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is angina, commonly called chest pain. Angina can be described as a discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing or painful feeling in your chest. It can be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. Angina is usually felt in the chest, but may also be experienced in the shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw or back.

Other symptoms of coronary artery disease include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (irregular heart beats, skipped beats, or a "flip-flop" feeling in your chest)
  • A faster heartbeat
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating.

Symptoms of heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI)

Symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • Discomfort, pressure, heaviness or pain in the chest, arm or below the breastbone
  • Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat or arm
  • Fullness, indigestion or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
  • Sweating, nausea, vomiting or dizziness
  • Extreme weakness, anxiety or shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats.

During a heart attack, symptoms last 30 minutes or longer and are not relieved by rest or medication. Initial symptoms can start as a mild discomfort that then progress to significant pain.

Some people have a heart attack without symptoms. A silent MI can occur in anyone, though it occurs more often among people with diabetes.

If you think you are having a heart attack dial 999.  Quick treatment of a heart attack is very important to lessen the damage to the heart.

Symptoms of arrhythmia

When symptoms of arrhythmia are present, they may include:

  • Palpitations (a feeling of skipped heart beats, fluttering or feeling that your heart is "running away")
  • Pounding in your chest
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Weakness or feeling very tired.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a type of arrhythmia. Most people with AF experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Heart palpitations (a sudden pounding, fluttering or racing feeling in the heart)
  • Lack of energy; tired
  • Dizziness (feeling faint or light-headed)
  • Chest discomfort (pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest)
  • Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing during normal activities).
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