Heart disease symptoms you can’t ignore


Heart disease is one of the leading health threats in South Africa, killing on average 210 people every day.

The whole of SA commemorates National Heart Awareness Month in September. On 29 September the rest of the world joins in with World Heart Day. Both of these are aimed at creating awareness around heart health.


What is heart disease?

Heart disease refers to a range of ailments related to the human heart, including heart attack, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, angina and many other heart-related infections and irregularities.

Heart disease types and signs no person should overlook:

Heart attack

A heart attack is probably the most well-known heart condition. A heart attack refers to when the coronary artery, the artery that supplies blood to the heart muscle, is blocked, causing the heart muscles to die. Signs of a heart attack should not be taken lightly.

Signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pressure, discomfort or pain in the chest, arm or below the breastbone
  • Nausea, vomiting or faintness
  • Feeling of fullness or heartburn
  • Sweating
  • Severe weakness, anxiety or shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Symptoms may start as mild and continue to intensify


Heart arrhythmia is when the heart has an abnormal heart rhythm: when the heart beats fast, slowly or at irregular intervals. Arrhythmias may prevent the heart from effectively pumping blood to the organs which can cause serious problems.

Symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations (a feeling that your heart has skipped a beat)
  • Excessive pounding in your chest
  • Drowsiness and lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe discomfort in the chest
  • Feeling very weak

Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease is a heart condition where one or more of the coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked. The most common warning signs of coronary artery disease is angina. 

Angina is when the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen-rich blood and can result in a feeling of extreme pain and pressure in the chest.

Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular or faster heartbeats
  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating

Heart failure

Heart failure doesn’t refer to when the heart stops working, but rather that the heart isn’t pumping blood as effectively as it should. This means that blood moves through the body at a slower rate, so oxygen and nutrients don’t reach their destinations as promptly as they need to.

Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath, both while active and at rest
  • A cough that presents white phlegm
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Swollen ankles and abdomen
  • Extreme fatigue and weakness
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Nausea and chest pain

Observing or experiencing any of these symptoms or warning signs must be taken seriously and you must act immediately by contacting a medical professional or your heart doctor.

Look after your heart

Many heart problems can be combatted and symptoms decreased by simply taking better care of the heart.

List of heart disease causes and measures you can take to stay heart-healthy:

- Smoking

Smoking or using tobacco products can significantly increase the risk factor of contracting heart disease. To help you stop smoking, try behavioral therapy or nicotine replacement therapy like a patch or gum. Also, if you already suffer from heart disease, smoking can worsen your symptoms.

- Lack of exercise

A sedentary lifestyle can hurt your heart health. Raising your heartbeat through physical activity from as little as 30 minutes a day can significantly improve your cardiovascular fitness for a healthy heart. Regular exercise can also contribute to maintaining a healthy body weight.

- Poor diet

Not eating enough nutritious foods can increase your risk of heart disease. Rather opt for a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, omega 3 oils, vegetables and foods low in fat and high in fibre for a happy, healthy heart.

- Not getting enough sleep

Studies have shown that people who don’t get their recommended eight hours of quality sleep can significantly increase the chances of heart disease. So ensure that you draw up a sleep schedule to get enough winks.

- Missing regular health check-ups

Frequent visits to your general practitioner (GP) can pick up on early warning signs of heart disease. By simply checking your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, doctors can detect and help you fight future heart disease.

See your GP and fight heart disease!

To help you pick up on early symptoms of heart disease, visit your GP today!

With GetSavvi Health’s Primary Care Plan and Primary Care Plan +, you get doctors’ visits for your whole family.

Compare our plans and get a quote from one of our consultants today!