Skip to content

People With Heart Trouble Usually Feel This First

Watch out for this kind of discomfort.

It's a stark fact: After decades of awareness campaigns, heart disease is still the #1 killer of Americans. Prevention is key. So is recognizing the early signs of heart disease or a heart attack so immediate treatment is possible. These are the symptoms that people with heart trouble usually feel first, and you may not have heard about most of them. 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 Most Common Symptom

Man having chest pain - heart attack, outdoors

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." 

And some initial signs of heart trouble aren't related to chest pain at all. Read on to find out what they are.

RELATED: Forgetting This One Thing Can Mean You Have Alzheimer's


New Discomfort With Exercise

woman sweating and tired after exercising a workout

"I usually tell patients that any new symptom that occurs with exercise is something to pay attention to," says Nicole Weinberg, MD, 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 golden rule: "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.

RELATED: Common Habits That Age You Faster


Shortness of Breath

Woman in the casual wear raise her hand over her heart.

If you frequently have to rest or stop to catch your breath while doing things that previously gave you no pause, 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.

RELATED: Sure Signs You May Have the "Most Common" Cancer



Woman sleeping on the couch in the living room.

If you're persistently tired and it has no explanation, it could be a sign your heart isn't pumping properly. If you find yourself chronically fatigued and you haven't started a new workout or your normal daily activities haven't increased, tell your doctor.

RELATED: The #1 Cause of Dementia


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 thing 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