The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The first signs can be chest pain, nausea, heartburn, excessive sweating, etc.

It is essential to know the early signs of heart disease. This means that a person can work with a doctor to prevent the disease from becoming life threatening. Other symptoms to look out for include leg swelling and unusual tiredness. Some people don’t find out they have heart disease until they experience symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). This article explains the early signs of heart disease and when to contact a doctor.

Early signs of heart disease

Heart disease is an umbrella term for several conditions that can affect the heart. Types of heart disease include coronary heart disease, arrhythmia, and heart failure. Causes and risk factors include certain medical conditions like diabetes, difficulty following a nutritious diet, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Various signs can indicate underlying heart problems, some of which are described below. It is important to note that some heart conditions, such as heart attacks, are medical emergencies. If a person’s symptoms are life-threatening or they think they have a medical emergency, they should call emergency services immediately.

Chest pain

Chest pain or discomfort is a common symptom of a heart attack. The sensation usually occurs in the center of the chest. It tends to last more than a few minutes or go away and then come back. A person may feel uncomfortable pressure, tightness, fullness, or pain.


Nausea is not necessarily a symptom of heart disease. However, if they accompany severe chest pain, they may be a sign of a heart attack.

Stomach pains

The heart is close to the esophagus, which is part of the digestive tract. It can therefore be difficult to determine whether a burning sensation in the chest or upper abdomen is due to digestive or heart problems.


Researchers do not yet fully understand the mechanisms behind this symptom. However, people with heart problems often report sweating excessively. Sweating and chest pain or discomfort can be early signs of heart disease.

Discomfort in other parts of the body

Besides chest pain, a person with heart disease may also experience pain or discomfort in other parts of the body. For example, leg pain may be a sign of peripheral arterial disease, which causes fatty deposits to build up in the arteries, restricting blood flow to the leg muscles.

People who have had a heart attack often feel pain in their left arm. This is because nerves in the heart and arm send messages to the same brain cells, and the brain cannot determine where the pain is coming from. It is a “referred pain”, which also often affects the face and head in people who have suffered a heart attack.

Choking feeling

Angina pectoris is the term doctors use for chest pain or discomfort resulting from a temporary interruption in blood flow. This disturbance also means that less oxygen is delivered to the heart. Angina pectoris causes a squeezing, burning, or choking sensation behind the breastbone. This feeling of suffocation is due to the heart not getting enough oxygen.

Swollen ankles

Swelling of the lower legs and feet, known as peripheral edema, can be a sign of heart failure. This condition causes reduced blood circulation, leading to fluid retention that can accumulate around the feet and ankles.

Extreme tiredness

Fatigue may be related to a person’s lifestyle rather than a sign of a serious heart problem. However, some people with heart disease may feel unusually tired in relation to their daily activities and sleep patterns. If a person experiences extreme fatigue that does not seem to be related to their activities or disturbed sleep, they may wish to see a doctor.


An irregular heartbeat can also indicate heart problems, including heart attack, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease, or inherited heart disease.

When to contact a doctor

Symptoms that indicate a person may need immediate medical attention include:

sudden chest pain or discomfort that does not go away
pain radiating to the right or left arm, neck, jaw, back, or stomach
sudden nausea, sweating, or dizziness
swelling of the feet, ankles, or lower legs
shortness of breath
facial weakness
speech problems
signs of a stroke
sudden memory loss, confusion, dizziness or falling
sudden and severe headaches
sudden visual disturbances
weakness or numbness on one side of the body
fainting or loss of consciousness

Types of heart disease

The most common heart diseases are:

Coronary artery disease: In this case, the coronary arteries become narrowed or clogged and the heart does not receive enough blood. This can lead to a heart attack or angina.

Heart attack: The blood supply to part of the heart is completely blocked by a blood clot or plaque. The heart muscle can then be damaged.

Arrhythmia: This is an interruption of the heart’s electrical signals, causing the heart to beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or a combination of both.

Valve disease: One or more valves in the heart do not open or close properly to regulate blood flow through the heart. This can increase the heart’s workload and strain the heart muscle.

Hypertension: High blood pressure is not a disease in itself, but it increases the risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

Congenital heart disease: This condition occurs when a fetus’ heart develops abnormally in the womb. An example is pulmonary stenosis, which results in a narrow pulmonary valve, causing difficulty in pumping blood to the lungs.

Inherited heart disease: Some people inherit heart disease through genes they receive from one or both parents. For example, Marfan syndrome causes connective tissue abnormalities.


The sooner a person identifies the warning signs of heart disease, the sooner they can benefit from medical treatment. According to a 2017 cross-sectional study, knowing the early indicators of coronary artery disease is the most important factor in achieving a successful outcome.

A person can reduce their risk of developing heart disease by making lifestyle changes:

eat balanced, nutritious meals that are high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods
reach or maintain a moderate weight
do the recommended 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise per week such as cycling or brisk walking
avoid smoking, if applicable
take all medications exactly as prescribed, especially those for health conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, including diabetes and high blood pressure.

In short

Heart disease is the second most common cause of death in France, so it’s important to know the early signs and symptoms. These can include chest pain, nausea, heartburn, abnormal sweating, ankle swelling, and extreme fatigue. The main signs of a medical emergency are sudden chest pain or discomfort that does not go away and pain radiating to the right or left arm, neck, jaw, back or stomach. A person can reduce their risk of heart disease by eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise and watching their weight.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.