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5 Early Heart Disease Symptoms You May Be Ignoring, According to Doctors

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.—and that goes for men, women, and people of almost every racial and ethnic group, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which notes that someone dies from cardiovascular disease in this country every 34 seconds.Congenital Heart Disease: Timing is Everything

If that isn't enough to make you take this condition seriously, here's what Mary McGowan, MD, Chief Medical Officer at the Family Heart Foundation, told Best Life: "What you don't know can, in fact, hurt or even kill you. We all know someone who either died suddenly or had a heart attack while in excellent health and without known heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, or cigarette smoking. But there are also hidden causes of early heart disease [that are] frequently missed by doctors, leaving entire families at high risk of early heart disease, and even death."

So what should you be on the lookout for? We asked McGowan and other doctors what early heart disease warning signs many people miss. Read on to find out what they said—and whether it's time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.


Have you ever broken out in a sweat, seemingly for no reason? Sure, if you're going through menopause, it could be a hot flash—but it could also be a symptom of something more serious.

Ashul Govil, MD, MBA, co-founder and chief medical officer at Story Health, says that "feeling suddenly sweaty without exertion" is cause for concern. "Most people know to watch for chest pain but ignore other key indicators," he says, noting that sudden unexplained perspiration can be an easy-to-miss indicator of heart disease.

2.Jaw and neck pain

Next time you're at the gym, pay attention to how your neck and jaw are feeling.

"While most people with underlying heart disease will describe chest pressure with exercise/exertion, sometimes the only symptom is jaw or neck pain," says McGowan. "Don't ignore jaw or neck pain with exercise."


McGowan also flags nausea as a common symptom of heart disease. "Other symptoms of underlying heart disease or a heart attack can include nausea and sweating," she says. "If you have risk factors for cardiac disease, it is very important to be checked if the aforementioned symptoms develop."

Women, especially, need to be vigilant about how their bodies are feeling. "It is notable that women more often than men will have atypical presentations for heart disease," explains McGowan.


Can't sleep? Plenty of things can cause you to toss and turn at night—especially when a busy work week is looming. But heart disease can also be behind your sleepless nights, says cardiologist Ernst von Schwarz, MD, PhD.

"Most people with heart disease suffer from insomnia but instead of evaluating possible reasons, it is often just treated with sleeping pills," he explains, going on to say that this often "results in lack of appropriate testing, including to rule out heart disease—in particular heart failure—as a possible cause."


Von Schwarz—and, in fact, all of the doctors who spoke with Best Life—identifies fatigue as the number one symptom of heart disease that most people ignore. "Fatigue oftentimes is a result of weakness of the contractile power of the heart muscle (as in heart failure), or of lack of oxygen (as in coronary artery disease)," says von Schwartz, who notes that people with heart disease may find themselves "just feeling low on energy and tired."

Not sure if your symptoms are worth a trip to the doctor? Don't be shy about making an appointment anyway.

"Even if you're unsure of the severity of your symptoms, it's best to seek medical advice," says Govil. "Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent damage to your heart and more serious diseases."

And von Schwarz concurs: "Even though several other conditions can mimic these symptoms, one always should check out the heart first," he says. "If it doesn't feel right, have it checked out."

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