3.51 Symptoms to Look Out For

Here are the symptoms that we will discuss, what they could mean and what to do:

Chest pain or chest discomfort: Chest pain, chest pressure, chest heaviness or chest discomfort can all be possible symptoms of “angina”, which is a symptom of the heart muscle not getting enough blood flow. Angina during exercise can be serious. If you experience possible angina symptoms during exercise, stop immediately. If the symptoms last for more that a few minutes or if there are other associated symptoms like shortness of breath or dizziness, call 911 immediately. Some people with heart disease experience “stable angina” and can use nitroglycerine tablets as needed to relieve discomfort. However if chest discomfort is new in onset or worse than usual, stop your activity and notify your healthcare provider.

Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing can be a sign of heart problems or lung problems. When lung problems cause shortness of breath during exercise, it is rarely serious. Sometimes the only symptom of heart disease may be shortness of breath without any typical “angina” symptoms. If you are abnormally short of breath, stop your activity immediately. If you stay short of breath for a prolonged time after rest, seek medical attention immediately. If you recover, do not exercise again until you discuss the symptoms with your doctor.

Dizziness or lightheadedness: Most dizziness or lightheadedness is due to the blood pressure dropping too low. While this can happen from simple things like dehydration, it can also be a sign of more serious problems such heart rhythm issues. If you experience dizziness, stop exercising. If the symptoms do not resolve, seek medical attention immediately.

Heart pounding or palpitations: A sensation of the heart racing, pounding or skipping is called palpitations. It is actually quite normal to feel some palpitations during vigorous exercise, especially when you are out-of-shape. As long as you feel completely fine without any chest pains, shortness of breath or dizziness, most of the time you should be OK. However, on occasion palpitations can indicate serious heart rhythm issues like atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. If palpitations are associated without other worrisome symptoms, stop immediately and seek medical attention. If you feel completely fine otherwise, take it easy, decrease your exercise intensity and be sure to mention it to your doctor as soon as possible.

Other discomforts: Sometimes heart disease can cause unusual or “atypical” symptoms such as pain only in the jaw, back, neck, shoulder or down the arms. If you think something you are feeling is unusual or wrong…you are probably right. Stop exercise and call your doctor.

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