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This is the #1 Sign You Have Heart Disease

Here are the heart disease signs doctors look for.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.—but there are steps you can take to prevent it from happening. "Other cardiovascular diseases — heart rhythm and heart valve problems or heart failure — may not be as preventable," says Luke Laffin, MD. Here are five signs you have heart disease, according to a doctor. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


You Eat An Unhealthy Diet

Man eating pizza having a takeaway at home relaxing resting

You are what you eat: A healthy, nutritious, and balanced diet is incredibly important to protect heart health, so make sure to follow a Mediterranean-style diet with an emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. "A 2018 New England Journal of Medicine study showed that this way of eating goes beyond improving your cholesterol and blood pressure. It also lowers your risk for stroke and heart attack," says Dr. Laffin.


You Sit All Day

overweight woman at home lying on the floor, laptop in front of her, prepared to work out on mat according to video

People who live a sedentary lifestyle are at a higher risk of heart disease, even if they exercise regularly. "A large review of studies published in 2015 in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that even after adjusting for physical activity, sitting for long periods was associated with worse health outcomes including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer," says Erin Donnelly Michos, M.D., M.H.S. "Sedentary behavior can also increase your risk of dying, either from heart disease or other medical problems. Even if you're doing 30 minutes per day of physical activity, it matters what you do the other 23 hours of the day."

RELATED: Habits Secretly Increasing Your Abdominal Fat, Say Physicians


You're Always Stressed

20-or 30-something man in gray blazer and jeans looking depressed outdoors
Shutterstock / pathdoc

Chronic stress is very damaging to heart health over the long term, doctors say. "There is no solid evidence that stress can directly cause a heart attack," says cardiologist Rami Doukky, MD. "However, chronic stress — the kind of stress that's due to ongoing situations like a bad relationship or difficult job — can lead to risk factors that affect heart health."

RELATED: Signs Your Gut is "Unhealthy," Say Physicians


Smoking Cigarettes

Man Smoking On Bright Sunny Day Outdoor

Smoking cigarettes is utterly terrible for heart health—one out of every five smoking-related deaths is linked to heart disease, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Smoking is a well-established risk factor for cardiovascular disease," say Christy N. Taylor, MD, MPH, and Hanna Gaggin, MD, MPH. "It causes inflammation, disruption to the lining of blood vessels, and an imbalance of factors important for maintaining oxygen levels, which can narrow arteries through plaque deposits (atherosclerosis)."

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The Number One Sign is Chest Pain

Asian young woman feeling discomfort as suffering from heartburn holding chest with closed eyes and sitting with folded legs on couch at home.

One of the most common signs of heart disease is chest pain and tightness, doctors warn. "Chest pain arising from heart conditions is generally slow to start and slow to resolve, lasting minutes, not seconds," according to doctors from the University of Chicago Medicine. "It is often associated with other worrisome symptoms such as shortness of breath, passing out or nearly passing out, nausea, vomiting and profuse sweating. Cardiac chest pain can also radiate to the neck, jaw or inner aspect of the left arm; it rarely changes with position but will worsen with exertion or physical activity. In general, all chest pains should be evaluated by a physician unless there was a clear and reversible cause for it (mild trauma, cuts, burns, bruises, etc.). It should be noted that early stages of a heart attack are often misinterpreted as gas, indigestion or heartburn and pulmonary embolism (blood clots traveling to the lungs) are often misinterpreted as a variety of lung conditions such as asthma, pneumonia, pleurisy or emphysema."


When Should I See a Doctor?

Handsome young doctor in white coat is talking to his patient while working in office

Symptoms of heart disease may not always be obvious, so if you're in doubt, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor and rule out any health problems.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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