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Secret Messages Your Heart Is Trying to Tell You

Listen to your heart, please.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Signs and symptoms of heart issues are not always what you'd expect—but if you feel something is 'off', never ignore it. "Most people know their bodies better than any doctor does. In general, if you constantly feel something isn't 'right' or isn't what you're used to, that warrants medical attention," says Parag Joshi, M.D., a cardiology fellow with the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. Here are five symptoms of heart problems to be aware of, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Erectile Dysfunction

Sad man sitting on a bed, girlfriend in the background.
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Trouble achieving or maintaining an erection could be a symptom of heart disease and arterial damage. "A problem with your blood vessels in one area of the body is associated with blood vessel problems in another area," says Dr. Joshi.

2

Severe Fatigue

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Unusually severe fatigue could be a sign of heart problems. "We're not talking about global fatigue like you feel tired at the end of the day," says interventional cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD. "We're not talking about you needing to go take a nap at 5 o'clock. We're talking about you were able to walk up a couple of flights of stairs—and now you can barely walk up one. Or you can't walk upstairs without feeling severe fatigue." 

3

Choking Sensation

Sick woman coughing, experiencing hiccup.
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A choking sensation could be a symptom of angina, doctors say. "The word 'angina' actually means 'choking', and sometimes the tightness or pain can be up in the throat. People tend to describe a 'restricting' or 'choking' sensation," says Professor David Newby, Chair of Cardiology at The University of Edinburgh.

4

Chest Pain

man dealing with chest pain, heart disease
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Heart attack-related chest pain is not always obvious, experts say. "We need to dig deeper into the symptoms of chest pain for both men and women as it relates to heart attacks," says Dr. Cho. "It is seldom as dramatic as you might think, and it can feel like pressure or heartburn that comes on over time."

5

Swollen Ankles

older woman with leg pain
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"This shouldn't be ignored, especially if the ankles get really big, as it can be a marker of heart failure, but it is also very common and has lots of other causes," says Professor Newby. "It could just as easily be from tablets you are taking – for example, blood pressure medication can lead to swollen ankles." 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.

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