The signs of coronary artery disease can vary. Some people have no symptoms at all, which is fairly typical during the early stages of the disease. For others, chest pain or chest pressure – or even a heart attack – might be the first sign of blockages in the heart’s arteries.
Chest pain or discomfort (also known as angina) is the most common symptom of reduced blood flow to the heart. It occurs when the heart isn’t getting enough oxygen or blood. People describe it as pain, pressure, squeezing or fullness in their chest. But this feeling can also be very subtle.
Chest pain or discomfort can be brought on by activity or extreme emotion, but it usually goes away with rest. You may also feel short of breath, weak or unusually tired.
Severe narrowing or blockage of an artery can also lead to heart attack, which can happen when plaque ruptures into the artery and a clot forms to heal the injury.
Heart Attack Symptoms
Chest pain or discomfort is the most common symptom of a heart attack for both men and women. But women are more likely than men to have additional symptoms, such as nausea and shortness of breath.
|Chest Pain Can Feel Like||Other Symptoms Include|
|Chest pressure, tightness, squeezing or burningDiscomfort in your chest, shoulders, arms, back, neck, or jawPain that travels down one or both armsShortness of breath||Unusual or extreme tirednessFeeling dizzy or lightheadedNausea or vomitingCold sweatAnxiety|
What Increases Your Risk?
Anyone with risk factors for heart disease can develop coronary artery disease. But it’s more likely as you get older and if you:
- Have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes
- Are overweight or obese
- Don’t lead a very active lifestyle
- Eat a high-fat, poor diet
- Have a family history of early heart disease (genetics), meaning if your mother, or a sister or daughter has heart disease before the age of 65; or if your father, or a brother or son has heart disease before the age of 55
Although you can’t change your genetic risk for heart disease, there are risk factors that you can change to help protect yourself. Learn more about healthy habits such as eating better, moving more, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking.