If you experience any of the signs or symptoms listed below, you should discuss them with your doctor.
Heart palpitations are an awareness of your heartbeat. They might feel as though your heart is ‘racing’, thumping or skipping beats. You might notice heart palpitations:
- During exercise.
- At times of stress.
- After consuming caffeine or nicotine.
Palpitations are not painful but can be alarming. See your doctor the first time you have palpitations. Often palpitations are not serious but if fainting, chest pain, or light-headedness accompanies them, seek urgent medical help.
Shortness of breath
Becoming unusually short of breath – especially as a result of any ordinary daily activities – may be due to heart or lung problems.
People with untreated heart failure often sleep on extra pillows because they become breathless if they lie flat. They may also experience dry coughing and can wake up at night with sudden attacks of breathlessness that pass after they sit up for a while. This can be a symptom of heart attack and should be treated as an emergency.
Increasing pain in the calf experienced during exercise and which is rapidly relieved by rest, may be due to clogging of the arteries that supply blood to the legs. Called peripheral vascular disease, this is a blood vessel disease (atherosclerosis) affecting blood vessels outside the heart and brain, such as the legs and feet. The single most important cause of peripheral vascular disease is cigarette smoking.
Dizzy spells or fainting
These episodes have many causes, including heart and blood vessel disease. It is not unusual to feel dizzy or faint when standing up quickly – this is called postural hypotension (low blood pressure related to posture). However, if you are having fainting episodes, see a GP.
Heart failure can result in a build-up of fluid in the lungs and other body tissues. This is known as oedema and can result in tiredness and shortness of breath and is one of the causes of swelling in the legs or ankles.
Often there are no obvious symptoms of heart disease, so it’s important to be aware of your risk factors.