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The Top 15 Signs of Heart Disease Everyone Needs to Know

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, resulting in 29 percent of all U.S. deaths in 2002, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than half (51 percent) of the people who died of heart disease in 2002 were women.

Meanwhile, more than one-third (37 percent) of adults reportedly have two or more of the six risk factors for heart disease and stroke, which include:

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • Diabetes

  • Smoking

  • Physical inactivity

  • Obesity

In all, heart disease is thought to cost over $403 billion in 2006 for health care services, medications and lost productivity, according to the CDC.

What Exactly is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is actually a general term used to describe various heart problems. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD), which occurs when your heart's arteries buildup plaque and become hardened and narrowed. This reduces blood flow to the heart and can result in a heart attack.

Other common heart conditions include angina, heart failure, arrhythmia, peripheral artery disease and more.

Signs of Heart Disease

Conventional risk factors such as those listed above are well-known signs that you may be at risk of heart disease. However, there are many other, lesser known, symptoms that can also signal heart disease risk.

In fact, studies have found that up to 97 percent of women with acute heart disease experienced prodromal (pre-heart-attack) symptoms more than one month (and sometimes as much as two years) before the attack.

These include:

  1. Changes in mood, including irritability, depression, anxiety and insomnia, according to researchers from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy.

  2. Elevated levels of inflammation-related substances in your body, including C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, and homocysteine.

  3. Unusual fatigue and/or insomnia

  4. Shortness of breath

Excessive fatigue can sometimes indicate the presence of heart disease in women.

  1. Indigestion

  2. Frequent headaches

  3. Racing heart

  4. Vision changes

  5. Changes in appetite

  6. Aching arms

  7. Chest pain

  8. Pressure in the chest, stomach, arms, back, neck or jaw

  9. Cold sweats

  10. Nausea

  11. Lightheadedness

What Tests Can Reveal Your Heart Disease Risk?

There is much controversy over whether people with few risk factors need to have extensive testing for heart disease. However, most experts agree that you should find out the following three numbers, and make sure they are within the healthy levels that your health care provider recommends:

  • Cholesterol (good and bad) level

  • Blood-sugar level

  • Blood-pressure level

Beyond these, another test sometimes encouraged is the C-Reactive Protein (CRP) test. Here is what the results tell you:

  • A CRP level lower than 1.0 mg/L indicates a low risk of developing heart disease

  • A CRP level between 1.0 and 3.0 mg/L indicates an average risk

  • A CRP higher than 3.0 mg/L indicates a high risk

There are numerous other tests out there as well, such as heart scans, stress tests, and electrocardiograms (EKGs), but only you and your health care provider can determine whether they are necessary.

Recommended Reading

Aspirin: What are the Benefits, What are the Risks?

Working Long Hours Now Proven to Kill You: How to Work Smarter, Not Longer


Medical News Today

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

American Heart Association

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