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Heart disease: Doctor explains how to reduce risk

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Certain symptoms, such as ankle swelling and shortness of breath may signal that something is wrong. However, one of the major symptoms to look out for is chest pain – which may be constant or have a sharp stabbing impact. Learning all the warning signs can help you get treatment and help prevent a heart attack or stroke. One sign to note is a choking sensation.

Around 11 percent of men and nine percent of women in the UK have been diagnosed with some form of heart or circulatory disease.

David Newby, BHF John Wheatley Professor of Cardiology at the BHF Centre of Research Excellence has explained more about the choking sensation symptom and 10 other signs to look out for.

Choking sensation

Professor Newby, based at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The word ‘angina’ actually means ‘choking’, and sometimes the tightness or pain can be up in the throat. People tend to describe a ‘restricting’ or ‘choking’ sensation.”

Chest pain

It is the obvious classic sign on a heart attack, yet many still do not realise this could be a medical emergency. Professor Newby explained: “If you have chest pain and you feel extremely unwell, you should dial 999 and get an ambulance as soon as possible.

“If it’s a heart attack, abilify oral solution discontinued it’s usually described as a heaviness, tightness or pressure in the chest; people will often describe it as ‘an elephant sat on my chest’ or ‘it felt like a tight band around my chest,’ that sort of constricting feeling.”

Feeling sick

Newby advised that chest pain accompanied by feeling significantly unwell means the individual should contact the emergency services, rather than going to see your GP.

Stomach pain or indigestion

“Because the heart, the gullet [the passage between your mouth and stomach] and the stomach are all lying right next to each other, the challenge, for both members of the public and doctors, is that a burning or indigestion-type pain and heart pain can be difficult to disentangle,” Newby said.

Feeling sweaty

Working up a sweat when you have been to the gym or because it is a really hot day, is nothing to worry about. But feeling hot and clammy along with chest pains is a sign that you should call an ambulance.

Leg pain

Newby advised: “If you get a gripping, cramping sensation in your calves when you are walking, it might be worth seeing your doctor, as that can be a marker of PAD (peripheral arterial disease). It’s most common in smokers and people who have diabetes.”

Arm pain

You might not associate arm pain with your heart, but it can be a sign of a heart attack. Newby said: “If your pain is going down the arm, especially the left arm, or into the neck that makes it more likely to be heart-related than indigestion.

“If it doesn’t go away, or if you know you have heart disease and have used your glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) spray two or three times to no discernible effect, you should be seeking emergency medical advice.”

Jaw or back pain

“With heart attacks, it can even happen that the pain is felt in the jaw, or the back. Again, if it doesn’t go away, call 999 and ask for an ambulance,” Newby advised.

Swollen ankles

Professor Newby advised: “This shouldn’t be ignored, especially if the ankles get really big, as it can be a marker of heart failure, but it is also very common and has lots of other causes. It could just as easily be from tablets you are taking – for example, blood pressure medication can lead to swollen ankles.”

Extreme fatigue

If you are tired and you have been working long hours or staying up late, it is probably not related to the heart – but if you start experiencing extreme tiredness and your lifestyle has not altered Professor Newby advises to contact your GP.

“Many of my patients tell me they’re tired, whether they’ve got heart failure or not, whether they’ve got angina or not! It’s a difficult one, because it’s so non-specific.”

Irregular heartbeat

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding this as a factor of heart disease. Common in many people, Newby discussed: “[He] did an audit of the heart monitors we give out to people for investigation and from about 700 people, we found only about 20 that had atrial fibrillation [which can increase your risk of stroke].

“The vast majority of people just had extra ectopic beats, which are usually harmless.

“I would suggest that a jumped heartbeat is usually benign and nothing to get too concerned by. Being aware of your own heartbeat is really quite common and in itself nothing to get anxious about.

“If your heart is going very fast and jumping around erratically then that’s when you should see your GP. If you feel like this and then you experience blackouts, call an ambulance.”

If you have any signs of heart disease, call your GP straight away, or 999 in an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms go away.

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