Recognising signs of Heart Disease

In the previous article we discussed whether you are at risk of having heart disease. However, just knowing that you are at risk is only one part of story. You also need to recognise if you have heart disease. Medical science is full of instances of men/ women losing their life because they did not recognise and respond in time to features of heart disease.

Symptoms : What should make you suspect?

Most of people understand that the cardinal sign of having a heart disease is severe chest pain. While this may be true in most of cases, there is a large population which does not experience typical chest pain. A very typical association is of sweat breaking out, or sometimes one gets the feeling of impending doom. It should also be noted that Diabetics are particularly at risk of getting heart attack without any symptoms, a phenomenon called ‘silent heart attack.’ Some of the other manifestations one needs to be alert to, include:

  • Palpitations
  • Excessive and early fatigue
  • Too fast or slow heart rate
  • Pain in abdomen: often missed as gastric or gas problem, and sometimes treated with antacids with disastrous results
  • Pain in back: again managed with analgesics and massage
  • Pain radiating to neck or jaw: sometimes leading heart patients to dentists
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Light headedness

How to confirm /Rule out Heart disease?

A strong index of suspicion is important. The next is a regular clinical examination by a Physician to check your weight, Blood Pressure, pulse rate, heart size, testing your sugar levels, cholesterol and other lipid levels, and ECG.

A word of caution though : A normal ECG does not rule out heart disease. Therefore you need to undergo periodic treadmill (TMT) or stress test. If you have any of the above mentioned symptoms, or If TMT shows up positive you need to undergo further investigations like Stress Myocardium Perfusion studies, which use radio nuclides like Thallium or Technetium, and which reveal the extent of blood supply received by heart muscles when you are carrying out strenuous physical activity. Coronary Angiography is final test to confirm or rule out Heart disease, but is an invasive test.

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About Mukul Saxena 34 Articles
Col (Retd) Dr Mukul Saxena has over 30 years of cross-functional expertise in healthcare, both in public and private sectors.