Symptoms - Coronary heart disease (CHD)

The most common symptom of coronary heart disease (CHD) is chest pain (angina).

You can also experience other symptoms, such as heart palpitations and shortness of breath made worse by exertion. Some people may not have any symptoms before they are diagnosed.

Angina

If your coronary arteries become partially blocked, it can cause chest pain.

This can be a mild, uncomfortable feeling like indigestion. A severe angina attack can cause a painful feeling of heaviness or tightness, usually in the centre of the chest. This may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach.

Angina is often triggered by physical activity or stressful situations. Symptoms usually pass in less than 10 minutes and can be relieved 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 damage the heart muscle and, if not treated straight away, can be fatal.

Urgent advice: Dial 999 or 112

For immediate medical help if you think that you or someone else is having a heart attack.

Although symptoms can vary, the discomfort or pain of a heart attack is usually like angina. But it's often more severe and may happen when you're resting.

During a heart attack, you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is travelling from your chest to your arms, jaw, neck, back and abdomen
  • lightheadedness
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • breathlessness

The symptoms of a heart attack can also be like indigestion. For example, they may include a feeling of heaviness in your chest, a stomach ache or heartburn.

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

The symptoms of a heart attack aren't usually relieved using a nitrate tablet or spray.

In some cases, a heart attack can occur without any symptoms. This is known as a silent myocardial infarction. This is more common in elderly people and 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. This can cause fluid to build up in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

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


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

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