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Can You Miss the Signs of Heart Disease or a Heart Attack?

Chest pain

The New York Times / Ask Well


Q. What are symptoms of heart disease? Can you tell if you have heart disease without having tests done?

A. The classic warning signs of heart disease and heart attacks are chest pain, often described as a feeling of pressure or a tight band around the chest, and shortness of breath during physical exertion that subsides when you’re at rest, said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. But symptoms may be more subtle. If you find yourself suddenly struggling to carry out normal daily activities, breaking out in a sweat, or becoming nauseated when walking or going upstairs, she said, “the first thing you should think of is your heart.” Call 911 and seek medical care immediately; you could be having a heart attack, the first symptom of heart disease for many.

“The one who knows your body best is you, and the more you keep track of how you feel, the better off you are,” Dr. Steinbaum said. “The one message I try to get across to people is to get checked out if they’re having any symptoms. If you’re wrong, it’s fine — so what? But if you’re right and you don’t go, you could die.”