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3 Common Heart Disease Symptoms in Men

Heart disease is the cause of death for 1 in 4 men in the United States, but due to a lack of familiarity with the symptoms, it’s possible that many men have heart disease (or may be at risk of heart disease) and not even know it.

Becoming familiar with the most common heart disease symptoms in males can help you recognize early signs of cardiovascular disease and take steps to prevent a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest. If you suspect you may be at risk, becoming familiar with the symptoms could ideally prevent you from developing heart disease at all.

Types of Heart Disease That Can Cause Symptoms

Firstly, it’s important to understand that heart disease refers to a group of problems and not a single disease. In the United States, the most common kinds of heart disease in men include:

  • Arrhythmias
  • Angina
  • Braunwald’s heart disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart failure
  • Birth-related heart abnormalities
  • Infections and other irregularities with the heart

Of all of these kinds of heart disease, several have also been linked with an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart failure
  • Congenital heart disease (heart issues that were present at birth)

While not a heart disease in itself, a heart attack can result from heart disease and could be the first sign that heart disease is present. Suffering a heart attack makes it more likely that you will later suffer a cardiac arrest, and the two can occur simultaneously. Because heart disease, heart attack, and sudden cardiac arrest are slightly more common in men, it’s essential to catch any problems in the early stages and take steps to reduce your risk.

Common Heart Disease Symptoms in Men

The symptoms of heart disease in men are grouped into three main categories:

  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Blood vessel problems
  • Heart attack

Symptoms of Heart Arrhythmias

If your heart beats with an irregular rhythm or especially slow or fast, this can be a sign of heart trouble. Look out for:

  • Feelings of dizziness
  • A feeling of the heart racing, beating very slowly or skipping beats
  • Chest discomfort or pressure that lasts up to 30 minutes
  • Feeling breathless after walking up a flight of stairs
  • Jaw, neck, or torso pain

Symptoms of Problems with the Blood Vessels

Blood vessels becoming narrower makes it hard for the heart to pump enough blood around the body and increases the strain on the heart muscle. Common symptoms of constricted blood vessels include:

  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Arrhythmias
  • Symptoms of decreased blood flow, such as sensations of numbness, tingling, swelling, coldness, or weakness in the hands and feet

Symptoms of Heart Attack

For some men, a heart attack is the first symptom of heart disease. A heart attack is different from cardiac arrest. In a heart attack, part of the heart becomes blocked with a blood clot, potentially causing part of the heart muscle to die. In sudden cardiac arrest, the electrical system of the heart malfunctions and the heart stops beating completely.

Many people suffer a heart attack without even realizing it. It’s uncommon to collapse or lose consciousness during a heart attack unless the heart attack leads to sudden cardiac arrest—in which case you would need CPR and defibrillation with an AED, such as the Philips HeartStart FRx, to prevent near-immediate death.

Common symptoms of a heart attack in men include:

  • Crushing chest pain
  • Chest discomfort or chest pressure
  • Back, jaw, or arm pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea

A Note about the Differences between Heart Attack Symptoms in Men and Women

While the symptoms of a heart attack in males tend to be obvious, the symptoms of a heart attack in women are less obvious and more easily attributable to other factors. Heart attack symptoms in women often present as:

  • Neck, jaw, or chest pain
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • A squeezing sensation in the upper back
  • A squeezing sensation or pressure in the middle of the chest

As both men and women can suffer from a heart attack, it can help to be aware of the differences in symptoms to make sure heart attack sufferers receive the appropriate medical attention and diagnosis.

What to Do if You Notice Concerning Cardiac Symptoms

If you have any of the signs and symptoms of heart disease, it’s important to seek medical attention. In the initial consultation, your doctor will ask you about your cardiac symptoms, risk factors, and any other symptoms you might be experiencing. Then, they may recommend you complete diagnostic tests, including:

  • A stress test to see whether your blood vessels might be constricted
  • An MRI scan to look for blocked arteries
  • Cardiac catheterization and heart X-ray to find the location of blockages
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

Heart Disease Risk Factors

The kinds of risk factors that your doctor might ask you about include lifestyle, diet, other health conditions, and your family history. If you have any of the risk factors but none of the common symptoms of heart disease in men, it’s still a good idea to undergo diagnostic testing and address any of the risk factors that are within your control:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol)
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking or passive smoking
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Age

Reduce Your Risk Factors for Heart Disease Now

While you can’t control your family history or your age, you can control your exercise, eating, drinking, and smoking habits to reduce or even eliminate most of your risk factors for heart disease. If you already have heart disease, you may need to take medications or undergo surgery in addition to changing your diet and lifestyle.

Treating heart disease becomes more complex the further it advances, so making the changes you can now could save money, surgery, time off work, and potentially a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest. Now that you know the symptoms of heart disease in males, assess your risk, take steps to lead a healthier lifestyle, and enjoy an improved quality of life.

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