Skip to content

The One Sure Sign You May Have a Heart Problem

Be alert to the signals your body is sending you.

Like many serious illnesses, heart trouble can sneak up on you. It's important to be alert to the signals your body may be trying to send you, so you can catch heart trouble early and seek medical attention—when a heart attack hits, time is of the essence. This is the one sure sign you may have a heart problem. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


The One Sure Sign

man having heart attack

The most common symptom of heart trouble is chest discomfort: pain, uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, or fullness.

"Classic cardiac pain is a heavy discomfort in the center of your chest that feels like a tightening or squeezing," says Robert Greenfield, MD, a double-board-certified cardiologist and lipidologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute in Fountain Valley, California. "It may radiate down your arms—usually the left arm or both arms—and may be associated with shortness of breath and possibly a cold sweat."

If chest pain comes on with exertion and goes away with rest, it's called angina, "and that may be a critical warning sign that your heart is in trouble." Greenfield adds. "Angina pain lasts a few minutes, but if the pain is prolonged then 911 may be the best next step." 

But some initial signs of heart trouble happen in other parts of the body. Read on to find out what they are.


New Discomfort With Exercise

Mature athletic man getting out of breath while feeling pain during morning run in nature.

"I usually tell patients that any new symptom that occurs with exercise is something to pay attention to," says Nicole Weinberg, MD, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. "For example, say you newly get nauseous with your workout. That is something we would need to further and more closely examine to find out what the cause is."

A rule of thumb: "If a symptom comes on, particularly with exertion, and doesn't abate for five minutes, you should call your doctor or report to the ER," says Weinberg.


Shortness of Breath

Woman having breath difficulties in the living room - Image

If you often have to rest or stop to catch your breath while doing things you could previously do easily, it could be a warning sign of heart trouble. For example, if you find yourself gasping for air after walking up a flight of stairs, it could be heart-related.




If you're persistently tired without a clear cause, it could be a sign your heart isn't pumping properly. If you're chronically fatigued and your normal daily activities haven't increased, it's a good idea to consult your doctor.


Pain in These Areas

Mature Man Clutching Arm As Warning Of Heart Attack

Pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw, and stomach may not be the first things you think of when looking out for heart disease. But these atypical symptoms can be the first signs of heart trouble or a heart attack, especially in women, the American Heart Association says. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
Filed Under