Heart Disease Banner

Signs & Symptoms

The following symptoms often appear in people with blocked heart (coronary) blood vessels:

  • Chest pains: Feelings of tightness or pressure on the chest, which usually appears during physical activities or mentally stressful situations. Usually, the discomfort spreads from the chest to the left shoulder and arm and sometimes up to the jaw and throat.  Initially, the discomfort appears during relatively demanding activities such as a brisk uphill walk or climbing stairs.  A short rest or a decrease in speed can alleviate the discomfort.  For some patients, nitroglycerin tablets under the tongue or oral nitroglycerin sprays relieves the discomfort.  However, as the disease progresses, this symptom can occur even while doing light activities or while resting.
  • StethoscopeShortness of breath: Patients experience shortness of  breath in mild or active physical activities. He/she has difficulties carrying out normal activities. This is due to the heart muscle’s decreased ability to contract.  As the disease progresses, shortness of breath becomes more serious even during light activities or resting. Lying down at night can produce the same feeling. Patients can use more pillows to elevate their bodies for easier breathing. Severe shortness of breath or fainting can lead to heart attack.
  • Edema: Ankle swelling is a sign of excess fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body.
  • Irregular heartbeats (Heart palpitations): The patient may experience irregular heartbeat due to instability in the “electric circuit” which is the system that triggers the heart to beat. Heartbeats can suddenly become rapid and irregular.
  • Sudden death: Unfortunately, as many as one-third of patients are discovered with coronary heart disease after a heart attack or sudden death.

Content by Dr. P.K. Lee, Cardiologist