8 Symptoms of Heart Problems (& What to Do About Them!)

Vital for health, it’s essential to identify early symptoms of heart problems before it’s too late—here’s what to know to keep the organ pumping and functioning optimally!

Can heart problems cause headaches? Can heart problems cause dizziness? Early signs of heart disease may not seem clear, but it is important to become aware of the symptoms of heart problems before a crisis strikes. 

Read on to recognize the top heart problem symptoms, and learn what to do when you spot signs of heart problems. 

Common Heart Problems

Warning signs of heart conditions aren’t always the same as symptoms of a heart attack. While symptoms of a heart issue might overlap with a heart attack, they aren’t identical. 

Other types of heart conditions and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) that might cause symptoms include: 

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart failure
  • Heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias)
  • Peripheral artery and vein disease 
  • Valve disease 
  • Stroke 

Early Signs Of Heart Disease

Signs of weakened heart muscle may not be obvious, especially at first. Chest pain is often the first clear sign of a heart attack. However, subtle symptoms such as shortness of breath may signal poor heart health. 

Early signs of heart disease may not be reason enough to call 911, but they are important to note. The American College of Cardiology recently redefined the stages of heart failure to help identify people in the early stages. Identifying the following stages can help both healthcare practitioners and patients avoid adverse consequences: 

  • Stage A – at risk but do not show symptoms
  • Stage B – evidence of abnormalities, enlargement, or other risk factors in the heart (may or may not show signs and symptoms)
  • Stage C – shows symptoms, current or previous, with structural disease
  • Stage D – advanced failure that is difficult to control, with symptoms interfering daily function and hospitalization often required 

Keep in mind that women and men may exhibit different symptoms, so it is important to know about a range of possible signs. Women often report a wider variety of symptoms than men do. 

8 Heart Problem Symptoms

The American Heart Association recently released a report of the most common heart disease symptoms. Here are eight risk factors, signs of heart problems, and symptoms of heart failure. 

1. Cognitive Dysfunction

Changes in cognitive dysfunction can be a sign of worsening heart problems. These symptoms can include: 

  • Brain fog
  • Confusion
  • Impaired thinking
  • Memory problems
  • Migraines without auras
  • Mood disturbances (i.e. anxiety or depression)

Keeping track of quality of life through some sort of journal or tracking app can help you identify the areas where heart disease may be taking its toll. 

2. High Blood Pressure or Heart Rate

An increase in blood pressure or heart rate may mean blood is being blocked somewhere in the body. In this case, your body is trying to make up for the lack of blood getting to the tissues in your body by beating faster and more. You can easily measure the way your blood pressure is trending by purchasing an at-home blood pressure cuff. If your heart rate and blood pressure are consistently high, it’s time to talk to your doctor.  

3. Persistent Coughing or Wheezing

Coughing that persists may mean fluid is building up in the lungs. This can quickly turn dangerous. If your cough produces white, pink, or blood-tinged mucus, contact your doctor immediately.  

4. Swelling

Swelling, especially in the legs, feet, ankles, or abdomen, may be a sign of edema. Edema happens when there is a buildup of excess fluid in the tissues of the body. 

Both swelling and edema can mean blood flow is restricted. Reach out to a medical professional as soon as possible. 

5. Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

While shortness of breath is perhaps the most common symptom of heart failure, many adults fail to seek help when this sign appears. 

Shortness of breath may also mean valve disease. The sensation happens because blood may be blocked in the body, and you should contact your doctor if it happens repeatedly. 

6. Fatigue or “Easy Exhaustion”

Exercise intolerance, feeling tired all the time, and other related forms of fatigue can be symptoms of poor heart health. Sleep disturbances, insomnia, and sleep apnea can also be common. 

If you feel like your activities are becoming limited due to the fatigue you are feeling, it might be time to talk with your cardiologist. Your heart might be too fatigued to get enough blood to your body tissues. 

7. Fast or Irregular Heartbeats 

Palpitations and arrhythmias aren’t just a sign of an impending heart attack. Heart palpitations may mean that the heart isn’t functioning the way it is supposed to. Whether through a medical device or notes on pen and paper, keep a record of when your heart feels off-beat. 

8. Digestive Discomfort

Gastrointestinal pain may also be a signal of heart failure. Symptoms can include: 

  • Changes to (or lack of) appetite
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Upset stomach or stomach pain

Digestive symptoms may mean the body’s intestines aren’t receiving enough blood. Your cardiologist can tell you if this discomfort might be related to potential heart problems. 

The Bottom Line On Heart Health

Wondering what warrants calling 911? Sudden symptoms that won’t go away mean you might be having a heart attack. Other signs and symptoms of heart disease may not be immediate, but are worth mentioning to your cardiologist and seeking treatment. 


Surprising Body Cues That Could Be a Heart Concern. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/surprising-body-cues-that-could-be-a-heart-concern

Warning signs of symptoms of heart disease. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/selfcare-instructions/warning-signs-and-symptoms-of-heart-disease.