Heart Problem Symptoms

Updated April 17, 2017

The heart is susceptible to a number of problems that can negatively affect its health and function. Typically, heart problems cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to life-threatening. Recognising the symptoms of a heart problem can help speed diagnosis and treatment, thus preventing severe complications.

Chest Pain

Chest pain is a common symptom of many types of heart problems and can be present either as a dull, generalised pain or as a sharp, piercing pain. Generally, chest pain occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle becomes inadequate. This can be caused by a number of heart problems that affect coronary blood flow, including coronary artery disease and heart valve defects. A lack of coronary blood flow stresses the heart and irritates its tissues, causing pain.

Shortness of Breath

Along with chest pain, shortness of breath is a common symptom of a heart problem. Shortness of breath typically occurs when the heart muscle becomes deprived of adequate blood flow. When this happens, heart muscle function (including pumping ability) becomes compromised, and the heart labours and strains to meet the demands placed on it by the body. This typically causes shortness of breath as well as extreme fatigue and lethargy.


A weak or damaged heart muscle can lose its ability to properly circulate blood throughout the body. If the brain becomes deprived of adequate blood flow, dizziness, and in some cases, fainting, can occur. Dizziness can often be a symptom of an underlying heart problem, especially heart problems that cause reduced blood flow, such as ventricular disease and coronary artery disease..


Certain types of heart problems can affect the heart's electrical system and cause abnormal heartbeat patterns. An arrythmia, which is a fast, chaotic heart beat, is a common symptom of an underlying heart problem. Generally, an arrythmia occurs as the result of abnormal and excessive electrical conduction within the heart. Conditions, such as cardiomyopathy (heart muscle thickening) and left ventricular disease, are common causes of a heart arrythmia.

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when blood flow through one of the heart's coronary arteries becomes obstructed, cutting off oxygen flow to a portion of the heart muscle. This typically happens when a blood clot lodges in a coronary artery that is partially obstructed by arteriosclerotic plaque, or coronary blockage. A heart attack is a major symptom of an underlying heart problem and is normally indicative of underlying coronary artery disease.

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