Chronic Heart Disease

The most common symptoms of coronary heart disease (CHD) are chest pains (angina) and a heart attack.

You can also experience other symptoms, such as palpitations and unusual breathlessness. In some cases, people may not show any symptoms before they are diagnosed.

Angina

If your coronary arteries become partially blocked, it can cause chest pain (angina). This can be a mild, uncomfortable feeling similar to indigestion. However, a severe angina attack can cause a painful feeling of heaviness or tightness, usually within the centre of the chest, which may then spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach.

Angina attacks are often triggered by physical activity or stressful situations. Although symptoms of Angina usually pass within 10 minutes, you can alleviate the symptoms by resting or using a nitrate tablet or spray.

Heart attacks

If your arteries become completely blocked, it can cause a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Heart attacks can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle and, if not treated straight away, can be fatal.

If you think you are having a heart attack, dial 999 for immediate medical assistance.

Although symptoms can vary, the discomfort or pain of a heart attack is usually similar to that of angina but often more severe. During a heart attack you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • sweating
  • lightheadedness
  • nausea
  • breathlessness

 

The symptoms of a heart attack can be similar to indigestion. For example, they may include a feeling of heaviness in your chest, a stomach ache or heartburn. However, these symptoms can also be accompanied by a pain that affects the arms (particularly the left arm), the neck and the jaw.

A heart attack can happen at any time, including while you are resting. If heart pains last longer than 15 minutes, it may be the start of a heart attack.

Unlike angina, the symptoms of a heart attack are not usually relieved using a nitrate tablet or spray.

In some cases, you may have a heart attack without any symptoms, called a silent myocardial infarction. This is more common in people with diabetes.

Heart failure

Heart failure can also occur in people with CHD when the heart becomes too weak to pump blood around the body, which can cause fluid to build up in the lungs that makes it increasingly difficult to breathe.

Heart failure can happen suddenly (acute heart failure) or gradually over time (chronic heart failure).

Want to know more?

British Heart Foundation: angina

British Heart Foundation: cardiovascular disease

British Heart Foundation: heart attack