What Are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease?

The symptoms of heart disease may vary depending on the type of condition, but some of the most common signs include:

  • Chest pain 
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Lack or loss of coordination
  • Loss of balance
  • Muscle pain or cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Numbness or weakness in the leg, ankle, feet, arm and/or face
  • Shortness of breath

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors for Heart Disease?

It's best to keep an eye on what may cause or aggravate heart disease, as well as its risk factors such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Family history of heart disease
  • High cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Obesity and being overweight
  • Old age
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Unhealthy diet

How Do you Know if Your Heart is OK?

Some people suffer from heart disease without experiencing symptoms. To help prevent this from happening, we recommend that you monitor your cardiovascular health by scheduling a heart screening based on the recommended intervals by a cardiovascular doctor. Answering our heart assessment may also help you determine if it's time to speak with your doctor for further tests, other cardiovascular services, and proper treatment.

Take Our Heart Assessment

We Take Cardiac Care to Heart

Your heart is your engine, and it keeps life flowing through you every single day. That’s why with proper heart health, your quality of life may vastly improve.

At Brookwood Baptist Health, heart care is a passion and a priority. This may lead to better outcomes, improved experiences and fuller lives for our patients.

From cardiothoracic surgery to routine screenings, stress tests to interventional cardiology, our team of specialists develop custom treatment plans to manage and improve heart health.

Let us help you navigate your heart journey. Brookwood Baptist Health offers the following:

  • Structural heart and valve centers
  • Cardiovascular imaging
  • Cardiothoracic surgery program
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Cardiopulmonary program
  • Electrophysiology program
  • Heart failure program
  • Interventional cardiology program
  • Endovascular intervention and vascular surgery program
  • Women’s heart services

What Is Cardiology?

Cardiology is a medical discipline that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of heart diseases and abnormalities, including cardiovascular conditions involving blood vessels. A cardiologist is not the same as a cardiac surgeon. The former diagnoses, assesses and treats patients with cardiovascular system disorders and supervises all aspects of therapy and administers drugs. The latter performs traditional open-heart surgery or minimally invasive heart surgery.

When Would I Need a Cardiologist?

The following symptoms may require a trip to a cardiologist, especially if a person has had a heart attack and heart failure or family history of heart disease or high cholesterol:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pains
  • Changes in heart rate or rhythm
  • High blood pressure

Common Heart Conditions

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease refers to the buildup of plaque within the walls of the arteries that supply the blood to the heart (called coronary arteries) and other parts of the body. This causes limited blood flow to the heart’s muscle. Coronary artery disease can weaken the heart muscle over time, which may lead to heart failure. This disease begins in childhood, but preventive measures can help delay its progression.

The first sign of coronary artery disease for many people is a heart attack. Other typical warning signs are the following:

  • Chest pain or discomfort (also called angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitation
  • Fatigue


An arrhythmia refers to the abnormal rate or rhythm of a person’s heartbeat. When the heart beats too early (premature contraction), too quickly (tachycardia), too slowly (bradycardia) or erratically (fibrillation), it cannot pump blood effectively which may cause internal organs such as the lungs and brain to shut down.

Some arrhythmias are harmless or life-threatening, and if it lasts longer, medical intervention may be required to restore a normal heart rhythm. An arrhythmia occurs when the heart’s natural pacemaker develops an abnormal rate or rhythm. The normal conduction pathway is interrupted, and another part of the heart takes over as a pacemaker. Symptoms include the following:

  • Fast or slow heartbeat
  • Skipping beats
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating

Heart Failure

Heart failure, sometimes called congestive heart failure, is a chronic and progressive condition wherein the heart cannot meet the body’s demand for blood and oxygen. With heart failure, the weakened heart cannot supply the cells with enough blood for the body to function normally. To keep up with the workload, the heart stretches for stronger contraction to pump more blood. This causes the heart to become enlarged and develop more muscle mass, increasing the heart’s output initially. The body will then divert blood away from less important tissues and organs like the kidneys. Eventually, these temporary measures will no longer be enough. Symptoms of a heart failure include the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen or neck veins
  • Difficulty in doing everyday activities, such as walking, climbing the stairs or carrying groceries

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease occurs when the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the outside regions of the body become narrowed or blocked. It affects the arteries in the legs, stomach, arms and head. Like coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease is caused by atherosclerosis, a process that narrows and blocks arteries in critical regions of the body. The most common symptoms of this disease are as follows:

  • Cramping
  • Pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs that gets better after rest

Because other health conditions and disorders of the arteries can mimic its symptoms, many people mistake peripheral artery disease for something else, and therefore it can go undiagnosed by healthcare professionals. Having peripheral artery disease increases the risk of developing coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. If left untreated, it can also lead to gangrene and amputation.

Valve Disease

The heart has four valves namely, the tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral and aortic valves. These valves have tissue flaps that make sure blood flows correctly throughout the heart’s four chambers and to the rest of the body. Heart valve disease occurs if one or more of these valves do not function well.

Symptoms differ from one person to another. Some people may display no symptom at all while others experience noticeable symptoms and can develop very quickly if the condition is severe. Some physical signs of heart valve disease may include the following:

  • Chest pain or palpitations (rapid rhythms or skips)
  • Shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness or inability to maintain regular activity level
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Swollen ankles, feet or abdomen

For some people, heart valve disease progresses very slowly and so symptoms are barely noticeable.

What to Expect at a Cardiologist Appointment

A cardiologist may request imaging tests, review a patient’s medical history and collect information about a person’s weight, heart, lungs, blood pressure and blood vessels for further testing as well.

Imaging tests to diagnose, monitor or treat cardiovascular diseases include the following:

  • Cardiac CT
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Coronary angiography
  • CT angiography (CTA) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
  • Echocardiogram
  • PET scan of the heart
  • Stress tests
  • Vascular ultrasound such as carotid ultrasound
  • Venous ultrasound of the arms and legs

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation is a supervised program that may be recommended to patients who have had a major heart-related event such as a heart attack or cardiac surgery. The therapy may include the following:

  • Cardiovascular risk assessments
  • Health screenings and wellness exams
  • Nutrition and lifestyle counseling, including smoking cessation and diabetes education
  • Supervised exercise

If you are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, talk with a doctor or schedule a screening to confirm diagnosis. Please do not delay care.

Find a Cardiologist

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