You may know the well-publicized signs of heart attack. But are other forms of heart disease creeping up on you or a loved one?
"When we think about heart disease, most people jump right to heart attack -- waking up clutching the chest with chest pains. But that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to heart disease," says cardiologist Lawrence Phillips, MD, assistant professor in the Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.
It's a myth that all symptoms of heart disease are obvious. The following stealthy symptoms might seem many inches away from your heart. But they typically warrant a doctor visit -- and perhaps a heart check.
What New Aches, Pains, and Complaints Might Mean
Maybe you've said it yourself, "I used to be able to [climb stairs, mow the lawn, fill in the blank] but now I have to stop because I get [light-headed, short of breath, palpitations, achy, fill in the blank]."
Heart doctors hear this complaint all the time, usually with good reason. A change in function from what's normal for you is one of the key symptoms of heart trouble. It makes sense: Your heart is your body's engine, pumping blood throughout to fuel all your movements. If you notice a different reaction to an everyday activity, consider it like a warning light on your car dashboard, but in this case a sign of something potentially amiss with your heart's valves or electrical system.
Next steps: Don't dismiss a change in your response to physical exertion by saying, "Oh, I'm getting old" or "I must be out of shape." Find out for sure if there's a treatable answer. If you see a pattern -- you find yourself complaining about exertion more than once -- get a physical exam. "There has to be a reason for the change," says Dr. Phillips.