6 signs of heart problems that are not related to chest pain
Although chest pain is the most common symptom associated with cardiovascular issues, there are a number of atypical symptoms that may indicate something is wrong with the heart.
High blood pressure, blood clots, arrhythmias, and valve problems can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, and jaw pain. Because these symptoms are not so clearly heart-related — and are linked to other health conditions — they are often overlooked, causing people to delay life-saving emergency care.
"The common thing we worry about is chest discomfort, but the truth is that cardiovascular problems can actually be signaled by other symptoms," Dr. Rigved Tadwalkar, a cardiologist.
Here are some symptoms that may signal a heart problem:
Pain in the balls of the feet—especially when accompanied by swelling—may be due to a blood clot in the body's deep veins, according to Tadwalkar. Swelling of the legs can also occur if the heart has problems pumping blood, causing decreased blood flow to the legs.
Dr. Joyce Oen-Hsiao, a cardiologist and associate professor of clinical medicine at Yale School of Medicine, has treated many patients who present with dizziness.
Abnormalities in blood pressure can cause dizziness. Some people will experience palpitations, or extra heartbeats, that can cause dizziness, Oen-Hsiao said.
A bad headache
A severe headache can be a sign that something is wrong with the heart. According to Oen-Hsiao, a headache that passes through the forehead and then into the eyes can indicate that a person has high blood pressure.
High blood pressure resulting in a headache can be an urgent matter, Tadwalkar said. If the pressure is high enough and lasts long enough, it can lead to blood vessels bursting.
Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath is a symptom associated with many heart diseases. Shortness of breath, especially with exertion, can be a sign that a person has high blood pressure.
Nausea or loss of appetite
Nausea and loss of appetite can be signs of heart failure. When the heart begins to fail, fluid can build up in the legs and abdomen. When the gut fills with fluid, it also doesn't absorb nutrients, causing people to lose their appetite and feel full all the time, Oen-Hsiao said.
Occasionally, nausea and stomach upset are the only symptoms that patients with a blockage in the posterior heart artery will experience.
"Many patients who have a blockage in the artery at the back of the heart, they won't actually have chest pain or shortness of breath, they'll just have nausea, Oen-Hsiao said. Jaw
Pain and Tightening
Some people with cardiovascular problems will experience jaw pain and heaviness. This is more common when patients are exercising.