What to know about heart disease symptoms

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Symptoms of cardiovascular problems run the gamut.

Some – like chest pain during a heart attack or a droopy face during a stroke – are sudden and severe, while others last years with varying intensity.

Factors such as sex, cognitive function and depression can complicate the recognition or diagnosis of symptoms.

In a study from the University of Washington, scientists detail the latest knowledge on cardiovascular disease symptoms with the goal to improve patient care and identify where more research is needed.

They suggest health care professionals should consider factors that might affect which symptoms a person describes.

For example, although chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack in both women and men, women are more likely to also experience nausea, shoulder pain and upper back pain.

With peripheral artery disease, a narrowing of the vessels that carry blood to the arms and legs, women are more likely than men to have no symptoms at all.

But when they do, women’s symptoms may be wrongly attributed to other conditions such as osteoarthritis, or even dismissed under the false assumption that peripheral artery disease is more common among men.

There are also differences in how people interpret symptoms based on cultural norms, the report said.

And in terms of race, research shows Black people with a type of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation experience more palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness compared to white or Hispanic people with AFib.

But many measures of cardiovascular symptoms are based on studies of white men, Lee said. The report calls for more research on symptoms among different groups.

A person’s mental health also can affect how they report symptoms.

Depression and cardiovascular disease often coincide, and that can lead to a general blunting of someone’s ability to detect what may otherwise be a very large change in their condition.

Cognitive function also can affect symptom detection, making it important to regularly measure a patient’s cognitive and depression levels.

The team says more precise ways to track and evaluate symptoms are needed, both for the sake of research and to help health professionals better identify patients’ needs.

If you care about heart disease, please read studies about common cause of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, and vitamin K may help cut heart disease risk by a third.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about supplements that could help prevent heart disease and stroke, and results showing this heart problem linked to 5 times higher death risk in COVID-19.

The study was conducted by Corrine Jurgens et al and published in the journal Circulation.

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