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February 2024: Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

doctor and patient with hands nested together beneath a red heart and the ICHC logo

American Heart Month Highlight: Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease


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In a previous article, we talked about heart disease, what to do in an emergency, and how to prevent heart disease. This time, we want to dig a little deeper into the signs and symptoms of heart issues and why they often go undetected until a big event like a heart attack or a stroke. We also want you to know how important it is to have an annual wellness exam, where your doctor can go over all your preventive health needs and help you identify issues before they start.


Symptoms and Signs of Heart Disease

Let’s start with some definitions. A symptom is evidence of a problem that you, the patient, can notice and tell your doctor about – like chest pain or fatigue. A sign is evidence that a doctor or other healthcare professional can detect, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Unfortunately for us as patients, the symptoms of heart disease are often nonexistent until a big event like a heart attack or stroke. Sometimes we can notice symptoms before that, but a lot of the damage has been done already – some of it recoverable, though! We might experience chest pain, fatigue, arrhythmia (that’s when you feel fluttering or palpitations in your chest), shortness of breath, or swelling of feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins. Here’s a detailed list of the symptoms you might notice in your body that could be connected to heart disease and to heart attack or stroke:


The signs of heart disease are usually measured with a blood pressure cuff, an EKG machine, and/or various lab tests by a healthcare professional like your doctor or nurse practitioner. The signs are often evident well before the symptoms, and can be used to prevent serious heart disease altogether – in other words, your doctor can tell you that you have high blood pressure, one of the leading causes of heart disease, and help you fix that before it ever turns into a heart condition.


Risk Factors

If you have any of the following, you might be at increased risk for heart disease. Some of these conditions might be signs that your doctor can detect, but some of them will be evident to you, or you may know them from talking to your biological family about their medical history.


Prevention & Wellness Exams

Because heart disease is often silent and symptomless until you have a major event, it’s important to see your doctor on a regular basis to talk about your risk factors and have them check for signs of heart disease, like high blood pressure. If you don’t have a specific concern or any symptoms, the best way to do this is to schedule a wellness exam with your doctor or healthcare provider. During a wellness exam, your doctor will check your blood pressure and order any other preventive tests they think are important for you based on your age and risk factors. They’ll also talk to you about what you can do to improve your overall health and wellbeing. And it’s not just for heart disease—you can get preventive tests and advice about cancer and other common health conditions at the same time.

Annual wellness visits are covered in full by most insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid. You may not even have a co-pay! The catch, however, is that you can’t talk about treatment of new or pre-existing conditions or health problems, or your insurance won’t cover it as a wellness exam. Wellness exams are purely for prevention, which makes them an effective tool in the fight against advanced heart disease that would otherwise go undetected.

You can schedule an annual wellness exam with your primary care doctor or healthcare provider – that’s us at ICHC! To schedule a visit with a primary care doctor or health provider, even if you don’t have insurance or a lot of money for doctor’s visits, call us today at 907-455-4567.

ICHC snowflake logo The Quality Team @ ICHC The Quality department at ICHC brings you helpful information about your healthcare in Fairbanks and Healy, AK. We are proudly committed to ensuring high-quality "healthcare with a heart!"

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