What Are The Signs Of An Unhealthy Heart?

Chest Pain & Heart Attack

Feb 17, 2022


Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, so knowing how to answer the question, “what are the signs of an unhealthy heart” can help you notice any abnormalities before they develop into a more serious issue. 

Common symptoms of an unhealthy heart include shortness of breath, chest pain, an irregular heartbeat, nausea, heartburn, stomach pain, back pain, and/or left side pain. Although not all early signs of heart disease are easy to catch, these are some clear warning signs that it’s time to contact your doctor.

5 signs of an unhealthy heart

1. Chest pain

The most common sign of an unhealthy heart is chest or heart pain. This may come on in the form of tightness, pressure, or pain and will typically last longer than a couple of minutes. However, note that not all heart problems come with chest pain. It’s important to check in with your body so you can notice when you’re experiencing abnormal symptoms.

If the pain does not go away, you start to feel a crushing sensation in your chest, or you feel the pain begin to spread into your left arm, back, or shoulder, you should call for emergency help. 

2. Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath is a telltale sign for a lot of health concerns including cardiovascular disease and other heart problems such as coronary artery disease, pulmonary embolism, arrhythmia, and aortic disease. The feeling can be described as shallow or tight breathing. If you are experiencing shortness of breath in conjunction with lightheadedness, chest pain, and unexplained weakness, don’t wait to make an appointment to see your doctor. 

3. Irregular heartbeat

An irregular heartbeat itself is classified as an arrhythmia but it can also be an early warning sign that something is off. For instance, it’s an early symptom to watch for congestive heart failure. There are various types of irregular heartbeats, a few of which include:

  • Atrial fibrillation: Fast, irregular heartbeats starting in the atria that could cause a stroke
  • Bradycardia: Slow heartbeat (<60 beats per minute)
  • Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs): Extra heartbeats in the ventricles or the “skipped a beat” feeling
  • Tachycardia: Fast heartbeat (>100 beats per minute)
  • Ventricular fibrillation: Fast and irregular heartbeats that require immediate medical attention

Does sugar increase heart rate? Yes! Because eating a lot of sugar causes an increase in insulin and insulin releases adrenaline hormones, your body’s natural response to eating high amounts of sugar is an increased heart rate. If your heartbeat feels irregular after a high sugar meal, this could be why. But if the symptom persists or is not related to any obvious event, call your doctor immediately.

4. Nausea, heartburn, stomach, or back pain

Although these symptoms might seem totally unrelated to heart health, they can often act as early signs of heart disease or a heart attack, specifically in women. There are many other reasons someone might feel nausea, heartburn, acid reflux, stomach pain, or back pain, but if any of these is a recurring issue, it’s worth getting the symptoms checked out.

5. Left side pain

More specifically, pain that radiates down your left arm or shoots through your left shoulder. This is a common symptom of a heart attack because the nerves that transmit pain from your heart and your left arm go to the same part of the brain. Therefore, it sometimes can confuse the pain you feel in your heart as pain in your left side body or arm.

Seek emergency medical attention immediately if you are experiencing pain on your left side, especially if the pain is accompanied by any of the other symptoms we’ve discussed above.

When to go to the ER for heart pain

Call 911 immediately if you are experiencing chest pain in combination with symptoms including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Discoloration or bluing of the lips, hands, or feet
  • Excessive sweating
  • Confusion
  • Pain spreading to the left arm or shoulder
  • Sudden onset of pain, pressure, or squeezing in your chest
  • Very low blood pressure or heart rate
  • Very high blood pressure or heart rate

One way to determine whether you should come into the ER for an irregular heartbeat specifically is to check your heart rate. If you are sedentary but your heart rate is over 100 beats per minute, your heart rate is tachycardia and you should call your doctor for further direction. Never hesitate to seek medical care even if you just find yourself wondering, “Why does my heart hurt?” It is always better to be proactive about early signs of heart disease rather than waiting for it to become an emergency.

What should I do if someone is having a heart attack?

Wondering what to do if someone is having a heart attack? The very first thing you should do if someone is having a heart attack is to call 911. If the person is conscious, you can give them an aspirin and try to keep them calm while help is on its way. If they are unconscious and not breathing, you’ll want to administer CPR. To do this:

  • Lay the person flat on their back, tilt their head back, and open their airway
  • Double-check for breathing listening and feeling for airflow
  • If the individual is not breathing, place one hand on top of the other, interlace your fingers, straighten your arms, and use your body weight to perform compressions below the breastbone (roughly the center of the chest)
  • Perform 30 chest compressions at least 2 inches deep, then provide 2 breaths
  • You should be performing about 100 to 120 compressions a minute. The dispatcher or doctor will take over once they arrive.

If you are uncomfortable and unsure what to do, you can ask the emergency line to remain on the phone with you until the ambulance arrives.

If you are having a heart attack and you are alone:

  • Call 911
  • Chew and swallow an aspirin
  • Try to keep calm as best you can
  • If you’re in your home and conscious, try to unlock and be near your front door so responders can find you easily

Experiencing a cardiac emergency? Come to a Complete Care 24/7 walk-in emergency clinic.

So, what are the signs of an unhealthy heart? Early signs of heart disease, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and other heart problems include chest pain, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, nausea, acid reflux, back pain, and left side pain.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms and are concerned about their heart health, don’t wait to head into a Complete Care freestanding emergency care facility. 

With ER locations throughout Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, and Lubbock) and Colorado (Colorado Springs), we are equipped to handle whatever emergency comes your way with significantly shorter wait times than standard hospitals. Let us take complete care of you.

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