5 Unexpected Signs of Heart Disease Everyone Should Know

Published: Friday, October 1, 2021

Could you have heart disease and not even know it? Quite possibly, because while you might think all the symptoms are heart-related, some of them aren’t quite so obvious.

Heart disease isn’t a single condition. It’s actually a group of conditions all of which impact the heart and affect its ability to function. As a group, these conditions are the leading cause of death among Americans, contributing to one in four deaths.

In total, almost half of American adults have at least one type of heart disease. While you might think that chest pain and other directly heart-related symptoms might always be present with heart disease, that’s often not the case.

“One of the biggest misconceptions related to heart disease are the symptoms – or lack thereof – it causes,” says Laura Divoky, MD, non-invasive cardiologist with Georgia Heart Institute. “The early stages of heart disease are often silent, meaning it doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms, and, if it does, the symptoms are often attributed to something else entirely.”

Less-Obvious Signs of Heart Disease

Even if heart disease doesn’t cause many noticeable symptoms, it’s important to pick up on any subtle cues that may indicate your heart isn’t functioning at its best.

“We encourage each person to really pay attention to their overall health and how they’re feeling, noting any changes or abnormalities – big or small,” notes Dr. Divoky. “After all, you know yourself and health best, you’ll be able to pick up on changes earlier than anyone else.”

Here are five unexpected signs of heart disease to watch for:

Difficulty sleeping

This may come in the form of insomnia, or an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. You’re most likely to notice this symptom when it disrupts your normal sleep cycle. If you typically fall asleep easily and suddenly have a hard time drifting off at night most days, it’s a good idea to have the symptom checked out.

Dizziness or lightheadedness

You’re familiar with this sensation; you’ve probably experienced it when getting up from a chair too quickly. If you’re feeling dizzy or lightheaded without a noticeable cause, it could be a sign your heart isn’t pumping efficiently.

Long-lasting fatigue

Ever had the flu and experienced extreme fatigue? This sign of heart disease will show up like that—you’ll experience a complete lack of energy and unusual tiredness that makes getting through the day difficult. Again, if this symptom persists for several days and doesn’t get better with rest, it’s time to talk with your doctor.

Shortness of breath

Occasionally losing your breath when you walk up the stairs is quite normal, as is difficulty breathing during an intense workout. But if you’re having difficulty taking deep breaths when you’re at rest or calm, it could be a sign of an underlying heart health issue.

Swelling in your legs or ankles

This is another indicator that your heart isn’t working at its best. When your heart can’t pump blood efficiently, blood can back up into your extremities, including your legs, causing swelling.

Leading Heart Care for Generations

As the state’s most forward-thinking heart and vascular program, Georgia Heart Institute is providing innovative and personalized care that’s improving and saving lives for generations. Whether you’re focused on disease prevention or needing advanced care for a complex condition, the cardiologists, surgeons and specialists of Georgia Heart Institute can provide the highest quality care when it matters most.