Skip to content

Sure Signs You Have Heart Disease, Says CDC

During American Heart Month, get familiar with the signs and symptoms of heart attacks and heart failure.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

It's American Heart Month and never a better time to remember the disturbing truth about heart disease and heart attacks: Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers one. "About 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that's 1 in every 4 deaths," says the CDC. "Sometimes heart disease may be 'silent' and not diagnosed until a person experiences signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia. When these events happen, symptoms may include" the following, says the CDC. Read on to see if you feel any of the following symptoms—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


You May Feel Chest Pain or Discomfort

Man With Heart Attack

Sign Of: Heart Attack

"A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, happens when a part of the heart muscle doesn't get enough blood," says the CDC. "The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart muscle." Chest Pain is one major symptom. "Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain," says the CDC.


You May Feel Weak, Light-Headed, or Faint

Woman fainting during exercise at home/

Sign Of: Heart Attack

"You may also break out into a cold sweat," says the CDC. "About 15% of fainting episodes are related to heart rhythm problems, including the abnormally slow heartbeat known as bradycardia. Blockages in arteries supplying the heart and heart muscle malfunctions can also temporarily disrupt the flow of blood to the brain and cause fainting. Interestingly, people don't usually faint when they're having a heart attack," says Harvard Health.


You May Have Pain or Discomfort in the Jaw, Neck, or Back—or in One or Both Arms or Shoulders

A man experiencing discomfort in his upper arm

Sign Of: Heart Attack

"As intricate as our body's systems are, they are very adept at giving signals when there is something wrong. When there is a problem with the heart, it triggers nerves in that area, but you sometimes feel pain elsewhere," according to the Cleveland Clinic. "Pain in the jaw, back or arms may signal a heart condition, especially if the origin is hard to pinpoint (for example there is no specific muscle or joint that aches). Also, if the discomfort begins or worsens when you are exerting yourself, and then stops when you quit exercising, you should get it checked out."


You May Have Extreme Fatigue

Sick young woman lying in the bed covered with blanket

Sign Of: Heart Attack and Heart Failure

"As heart failure becomes more severe, the heart is unable to pump the amount of blood required to meet all of the body's needs," according to UCSF Health. "To compensate, blood is diverted away from less-crucial areas, including the arms and legs, to supply the heart and brain. As a result, people with heart failure often feel weak (especially in their arms and legs), tired and have difficulty performing ordinary activities such as walking, climbing stairs or carrying groceries."


You May Have Indigestion, Nausea or Vomiting

Middle aged woman suffering from abdominal pain while sitting on bed at home

Sign Of: Heart Attack

"When the liver and digestive system become congested they fail to receive a normal supply of blood. This can make you feel nauseous or full, even if you haven't eaten," says UCSF Health.


You May Have Shortness of Breath

woman doing asthma crisis at home in the living room

Sign Of: Heart Attack and Heart Failure

"This often comes along with chest discomfort, but shortness of breath also can happen before chest discomfort," says the CDC. "Some heart attacks don't cause pain at all. These 'silent heart attacks' are most common in people with diabetes, older adults and those who have had bypass surgery," says the Cleveland Clinic.


You May Have Fluttering Feelings in Your Chest

Young woman feeling sick and holding her chest in pain at home.

Sign Of: Arrhythmia

"The heart may speed up to compensate for its failing ability to adequately pump blood throughout the body," says UCSF Health. "Patients may feel a fluttering in the heart (palpitations) or a heartbeat that seems irregular or out of rhythm. This often is described as a pounding or racing sensation in the chest."


You May Have Swelling of the Feet, Ankles, Abdomen or Neck Veins

Pain in the foot of the elderly

Sign Of: Heart Failure

"As blood flow out of the heart slows, blood returning to the heart through the veins backs up, causing fluid to build up in the tissues," according to the American Heart Association. "The kidneys are less able to dispose of sodium and water, also causing fluid retention in the tissues." As a result, you may feel "swelling in the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen or weight gain. You may find that your shoes feel tight."

RELATED: Simple Ways to Avoid a Heart Attack, According to Doctors


What to Do if You Have These Symptoms

Hand Holding Smartphone With Emergency Number 911 On The Screen

"If you notice the symptoms of a heart attack in yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately," says the CDC. "The sooner you get to an emergency room, the sooner you can get treatment to reduce the amount of damage to the heart muscle. At the hospital, health care professionals can run tests to find out if a heart attack is happening and decide the best treatment." And be safe all around during this pandemic—get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
Filed Under