London Heart

Heart disease symptoms and early warning signs: How to spot them

Heart disease refers to a range of conditions that affect your heart. In this blog post, we focus on coronary heart disease (also known as coronary artery disease).

We explain the early warning signs of coronary heart disease and factors that increase your risk of developing the condition. Plus, we discuss the importance of heart screening and how it can support early diagnosis and treatment.

Signs of heart disease

The most common symptoms of coronary heart disease are called angina. Heart disease can also lead to heart attack and heart failure. Let’s explore the signs of each in turn:


Angina is a warning sign of coronary heart disease. If you get angina, you may feel:

  • A pain that starts in your chest and may travel through your body
  • Breathless
  • Nauseous
  • Faint

The pain you feel in your chest when you get angina may be mild, similar to indigestion. Mild angina tends to just affect the chest.

If you get a more severe episode of angina, the pain that starts in your chest may travel through your body. You may feel it in your arms, jaw, neck, back and stomach.

Angina can be triggered by stress or physical exertion. Symptoms normally pass within 10 minutes and normally subside if you rest.

If you experience angina, you should book an appointment with a cardiologist to discuss your symptoms.


Heart attack

If left undiagnosed, coronary heart disease can cause a heart attack. This happens when your arteries become completely blocked.

Learn about the symptoms of a heart attack in our video FAQ. A heart attack is a medical emergency. Call emergency services straight away if you think you are experiencing one.

Heart failure

Coronary heart disease can also cause heart failure.

Heart failure is when the heart is not able to pump blood around the body properly because it has become too weak. This can cause a build up of fluid in the lungs which causes breathing problems.

The symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen ankles
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Changes in weight
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Palpitations
  • Fast heart rate

If you experience these symptoms, book an appointment with a cardiologist right away.

Risk factors

The symptoms of coronary heart disease are caused by blockages in the arteries (blood vessels) that supply the heart. Fatty substances called atheroma can build up in the arteries, narrowing them. This makes it harder from oxygenated blood to reach the heart.

This process is called atherosclerosis. The following factors increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis:

  • Smoking
  • Having high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Having high cholesterol
  • Having high levels of lipoprotein (a)
  • Insufficient exercise
  • Having diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Family history of coronary heart disease

High blood pressure and high cholesterol are often the result of lifestyle factors. Some of the things that cause high blood pressure include:

  • Eating too much salt
  • Not eating enough fruit and vegetables
  • Too much caffeine or alcohol

Some of the causes of high cholesterol include:

  • Eating fatty foods
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being overweight

Your risk of developing heart disease can be lowered by making lifestyle changes. For example:

  • Eating healthily
  • Stopping smoking
  • Doing more exercise
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Book a heart screening

If you have symptoms of angina or the risk factors for heart disease apply to you, it is a good idea to book a heart screening.

Heart screening checks your overall heart health and detects early warning signs of heart disease. Spotting the condition early means we can put in place a treatment plan to improve your heart health. This will reduce the risk of heart disease complications like heart attacks and heart failure.

At your heart screening you will be seen by an expert cardiologist who will carry out a number of tests. This will take 2 – 4 hours. You’ll get a full report with your results and a bespoke treatment plan if needed.

Put your heart health first. Book an appointment today.