Heart disease, otherwise known as cardiovascular disease or CVD, is a common cause of death in Australia. While heart disease is preventable in most cases, many people who suffer from it don’t know their symptoms are serious.

Here are 8 common signs and symptoms of heart disease that might mean it’s time for a checkup with your general practitioner:

Heart Facts

from Australian Heart Foundation

  • 1 in 6 Aussies are affected by heart disease
  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and lack of exercise increase your risk of heart disease
  • 35% of Aussies aged 55-64 will report having a long-term CVD condition
Disclaimer: if you think you or your loved one are suffering from a serious condition like heart disease, treat your symptoms seriously and seek medical help from a trained professional. This article is not a substitute for medical advice and is for general purposes only.

#1 Chest Pains

Medically termed as angina, chest pain can feel like squeezing, burning, pressure/weight or a variety of other types of pain or discomfort in the chest. The sensations are often described as being similar to the vice-like sensations of heartburn or indigestion, but is much more serious and can be an indicator of coronary diseases.

If you have these experiences accompanied by any nausea, dizziness, fatigue or pain in the jaw, neck, shoulder or arms – especially if these symptoms are ongoing – a trip to your GP can help distinguish temporary ‘stable angina’ brought on from exertion and the more serious ‘unstable angina’, which can be a sign of heart failure.

#2 Irregular Heart Rhythm

Abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, can involve feeling like your heart is racing, palpitating and/or pounding, accompanied by faintness, short breath, fatigue and chest discomfort. The cause of arrhythmias can range from stress and caffeine to much more serious medical conditions including – you guessed it – heart disease.

It’s best to see your doctor as soon as possible if you start experiencing these symptoms and take the relevant tests to determine the cause and treatment you need.

#3 Excessive Sweating

Sweating under normal circumstances of heat, exercise or even fear is usually nothing to be concerned about. However, if you find yourself breaking into a noticeable sweat for no reason, this may be an indicator of heart disease or another serious condition.

Take care to note other signs and symptoms if you start sweating for no reason, and see your doctor if it persists.

#4 Fatigue

If you’re feeling extreme tiredness when you’re working or exerting yourself, your fatigue is probably normal. But if you’re not doing anything that should result in fatigue, seeing your doctor is a good idea as it can be a sign of not just heart disease, but many other health issues.

Fatigue can also be debilitating in impacting your daily activities and quality of life, so it’s worth seeking treatment for your overall well-being.

#5 Family History

This one seems fairly straightforward, but if you have a family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes or other health issues connected to heart issues, seeing your doctor and being open about your history is extremely important.

Your GP will likely elect to take some tests and monitor your heart health and any possible symptoms of heart disease as a result of your family’s predisposition.

#6 Arm Pain

Pains in your arm might not be the first thing you associate with serious disease, but if the pain you’re experiencing is travelling down the length of your arm, this can be a serious indicator of heart disease and even more seriously – a warning sign of an oncoming heart attack. If the pain persists, emergency medical advice should be sought immediately.

#7 Swollen Feet

This is another symptom that can be attributed to a wide variety of conditions, from pregnancy to certain medications. Swollen feet can not only cause discomfort, but can be a sign that your heart isn’t pumping and circulating blood the way it should be, which can be a sign of heart disease. Consider seeing your GP if you’re experiencing persistent swollen feet and be sure to request tests along with pain relief and other treatment plans to rule out heart disease.

#8 Loud Heartbeat

If you can hear your heartbeat as you try to fall asleep at night, this could be a sign that a valve in your heart isn’t functioning the way it should be. It’s common for people who experience this to adjust their sleeping position to avoid hearing their heartbeat, but it could be a sign of something serious, so don’t ignore it.

Issues like heart disease, anaemia, low blood pressure or low sugar can be treated, so seek medical assistance if you experience a loud heartbeat—especially if it’s persistent.

No matter what your signs or symptoms, it’s important to follow your instinct when experiencing anything possibly related to your heart and seek medical help from your general practitioner or an emergency specialist.