Heart Conditions

9 Subtle Signs of Heart Problems

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By Apollo 24/7, Published on- 02 November 2020, Updated on - 28 June 2023

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The heart is one of the body's most vital organs. It continuously replenishes the body with essential oxygen and nutrients. Common heart ailments include diseases related to blood vessels (coronary artery disease), plaque build-up (atherosclerosis), heart rhythm abnormalities (arrhythmias), damage to the valves of the heart (valvular heart disease), and weak heart muscle (congestive heart failure), among others.
Problems associated with the proper functioning of the heart can manifest in different forms. Chest pain is probably the most common symptom of a heart ailment and refers to the feeling of pressure, tightness, or heaviness of the chest. However, not all signs of heart problems are as evident as chest pain, and there are other subtle symptoms that can be early warning signs. People may experience these signs for months or even years without connecting them to the heart. It is important to be able to recognize these symptoms in order to take timely action:
  • Fatigue: Persistent and unexplained tiredness is one of the early warning signs of a heart problem. When the heart cannot pump blood effectively to all the tissues, the body responds by diverting blood away from muscles in the limbs, to the heart and brain to keep them functioning. One can feel extreme fatigue and difficulty with activities like walking or climbing stairs.

  • Shortness of breath: Feeling short of breath may be yet another important sign of an impending heart issue. It happens when the heart fails to pump blood efficiently, and blood backs-up in the veins returning from the lungs to the heart tissue. An increase in pressure within the veins causes fluid leakage into the lungs, resulting in shortness of breath. It can be felt even after a small amount of exertion, resting, or lying flat on the back.

  • Coughing or wheezing: A cough that does not go away, producing white or pink blood-tinged phlegm could be another sign of heart-related problems. Cough occurs when the heart cannot pump blood effectively, causing blood to leak into the lungs. It results in fluid build-up and irritation in the lungs that are similar to the causes of shortness of breath.

  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet: Swelling is caused by excess fluid build-up because of improper blood flow to the heart. When the heart’s lower chambers cannot pump blood efficiently, the blood flow out of the heart slows down. The blood returning to the heart muscle backs up and causes fluid accumulation or swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet.

  • Palpitations: Palpitations refer to a fast or uneven heartbeat, a feeling that the heart is racing or throbbing. The palpitations occur when the heart muscles cannot pump blood with enough force. The heart speeds up to make up for the loss in its ability to pump blood adequately throughout the body, causing fluttering in the heart.

  • Fainting, dizziness, or light-headedness: Abnormal heart function can reduce the flow of blood to the brain. The decreased blood flow can cause dizziness or light-headedness. Also, a severe decline in blood flow to the brain can cause a sudden loss of consciousness. These symptoms signify abnormal heart rate or the heart’s inability to pump blood.

  • Neck, jaw, abdomen, or back pain: When the blood flow to the heart muscle reduces, the heart struggles to get enough blood. Although the pain signals originate in the heart, the nerve pathways may cause pain to the neck, jaw, abdomen, or back. The pain felt is like pressure on these parts or like a radiating discomfort.

  • Excessive sweating: Unusual and excessive sweating, especially cold sweats, with no activity or exercise can be a sign of heart problems. When the arteries supplying blood to the heart get blocked, the body uses more energy to provide blood to the heart tissue, and the body temperature increases. Excessive sweating occurs to cool the body.

  • Digestion issues: Changes in appetite and digestion issues like nausea or vomiting can indicate heart issues. When the heart cannot work efficiently, the stomach and other digestive organs do not receive enough blood resulting in indigestion issues. Poor heart function can lead to the accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Fluid build-up can put pressure on the digestive system, leading to a feeling of fullness or nausea.


We often think of the typical symptoms of heart problems as significant and noticeable. However, this may not be the case every time. The early signs are not usually painful or discomforting and we may tend to ignore them.
However, by the time the symptoms become evident, significant damage to the cardiovascular system may already have been done. Therefore, it is necessary to be acquainted with the aforementioned signs of subtle heart problems. Knowing these signs can help in getting timely treatment and may prevent bigger issues, like a heart attack or stroke.
For any questions relating to heart health, you can:

Talk to a Cardiologist


Heart Conditions

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