These are a number of symptoms which may suggest underlying cardiovascular disease. If you are experiencing any of these, you may wish to consider seeking advice from your General Practitioner or a Cardiac Specialist.
It is important to keep our hearts healthy before problems occur by considering specific lifestyle advice, from either your General Practitioner or a Cardiac Specialist. This should primarily focus on regular aerobic exercise and a healthy balanced diet, whilst targeting certain risk factors including smoking, excess alcohol intake, stress, high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and understanding family history of heart disease.
Cardiac health screening of certain individuals and families can be helpful in early diagnosis and treatment.
Chest pain or tightness may be due to angina caused by poor circulation of blood to the heart, known as coronary artery disease. Cardiac chest pain often occurs on exertion and is typically a heavy or tight sensation felt in the centre or left side of the chest and pain can radiate to left arm, neck or jaw. Chest pain may not be due to a heart problem at all and can be related to the lungs, chest wall or stomach.
An early specialist assessment is important, particularly if you have cardiac risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, raised cholesterol or family history of coronary artery disease. Patients with suspected angina need specialist cardiac evaluation with investigations such as an Electrocardiogram, Exercise treadmill test, Cardiac CT scan, Stress echocardiogram, Nuclear perfusion scan or Coronary angiogram.
Shortness of breath may represent a broad range of underlying cardiac conditions including heart failure, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and heart valve disease. Breathlessness may initially be experienced on exertion but can progress to occurring at rest, when lying flat or even wake you at night, particularly when associated with heart failure. Breathlessness due to an underlying heart condition, such as coronary artery disease or arrhythmia, is often associated with other cardiac symptoms such as chest pain, palpitation and leg swelling. Breathlessness can be due to reasons other than the heart such as lung disease or anaemia.
Patients with breathlessness often need investigation with routine blood tests including natriuretic peptides, an Electrocardiogram, Echocardiogram and Chest radiograph.
Palpitations are often experienced as a fluttering sensation in the chest, either occurring alone or associated with chest pain, shortness of breath, dizzy spells or blackouts/syncope. Palpitations are commonly due ectopic beats but may represent an underlying arrhythmia, particularly if symptoms are recurrent or sustained nature.
Dizzy spells and particularly blackouts, often known as syncope, warrant specialist assessment and further investigation. Dizzy spells or syncope may be associated with palpitation, chest pain or breathlessness but can also occur without warning. Symptoms may simply be caused by dehydration and low blood pressure, sometimes due to excess prescribed medication, however important causes including arrhythmia, structural heart disease, inherited cardiac disease and neurocardiogenic syncope must be considered.
Patients with dizzy spells or syncope may require further investigations with an Electrocardiogram, Echocardiogram and continuous Holter ECG monitoring. Certain patients may benefit from undergoing insertion of a cardiac loop recorder to confirm diagnosis.
Leg swelling can be due to many causes including poor venous circulation, low protein levels and side effects from certain prescribed medication. Swelling may however represent an underlying cardiac problem such as heart failure and therefore requires further assessment, particularly if associated with breathlessness and fatigue.
Patients with unexplained leg swelling may may require further investigations with blood tests including natriuretic peptides, an Electrocardiogram, Echocardiogram and Chest radiograph.