Heart disease is a term referring to a range of heart health issues. These include:
- coronary artery disease
- heart failure
- other heart-related irregularities, infections, and birth abnormalities
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease affects more than 1 in 3 men in the United States.
In some cases, a person may have evident signs of heart disease that are easily recognizable. It is possible, however, to develop heart disease without experiencing any noticeable symptoms.
Read on to discover some of the common signs and symptoms of heart disease in men.
Are symptoms different in men and women?
Men may experience a crushing pain or squeezing sensation in the chest.
Men and women share many of the same symptoms for heart disease and heart attacks.
However, men are more likely to experience the well-known heart attack symptoms such as:
- crushing chest pain
- squeezing, discomfort, or fullness in the chest
- pain in the arm, jaw, or back
- shortness of breath
- cold sweat
Women are less likely to experience crushing chest pain. They have a higher chance of having the following symptoms instead:
- pain in the jaw, neck, or chest
- feeling faint or lightheaded
- squeezing on the upper back
- fullness, pressure, or squeezing in the center of the chest
As a result, women are more likely to ignore their cardiac symptoms as it is less obvious that they relate specifically to the heart.
Signs of heart disease in men
In some cases, a heart attack or another severe heart-related event may be one of the earliest signs of heart disease that a man notices.
However, there are often some earlier symptoms and signs that they can look for, which may help to prevent a heart attack, stroke, or other complications of heart disease.
These include the following:
Symptoms of heart arrhythmias
Heart arrhythmias occur when the heart beats irregularly, or too quickly or slowly. Some symptoms to look for include:
- fainting or dizziness
- a sensation of the heart racing, or beating too slowly or irregularly
- discomfort or pressure in the chest that can last for up to 30 minutes
- difficulty catching the breath after moderate exercise such as walking up stairs
- unexplained pain in the jaw, neck, or torso
Symptoms of blood vessel problems
Blood vessels can constrict or narrow over time. When this occurs, it is more difficult for blood to pass through the veins and arteries and this puts greater strain on the heart when it pumps.
Some early symptoms of narrowing blood vessels include:
- shortness of breath
- extreme fatigue
- an irregular heartbeat
- chest pain or angina
- a feeling of pain, numbness, swelling, tingling, coldness, or weakness in the outer extremities
Symptoms of a heart attack
Men generally experience a combination of the following symptoms when they have a heart attack:
- chest pain
- pain in the arm, neck, jaw, or back
- squeezing or a sensation of chest pressure or fullness
- unexplained excessive sweating
- shortness of breath
Diagnosis may involve monitoring a person while they walk or run on a treadmill.
Diagnosing heart disease often begins with a physical examination.
During the examination, a doctor will discuss any symptoms that a person is experiencing and any risk factors they may have for developing heart disease.
After assessing a patient's physical health, symptoms, and risk factors, a doctor may run several diagnostic tests to determine if a person has any form of heart disease.
Many doctors will order a stress test that looks at how the person and heart respond to moderate exercise. A doctor will monitor a person as they walk or run on a treadmill to gauge whether or not they are likely to have narrowing of the blood vessels.
A doctor may also use an MRI scan to check for blockages that could be causing a restriction in blood flow.
If they confirm a blockage, the doctor will need to determine its exact location. The method for this is invasive but should not be painful.
A cardiologist will use a long, thin tube to insert a dye into the blood vessels of the heart, in a procedure called cardiac catheterization. A radiologist will then take a series of X-ray images of the heart and arteries, called an angiogram.
There are several potential treatment options for heart disease.
A doctor may prescribe one or more of the following medications:
- warfarin or other blood thinners
- digoxin, which helps the heart work more efficiently
- medication to break up blood clots
- antiarrhythmic drugs
- angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- medication to inhibit platelets, which help blood to coagulate
- calcium channel blockers
In addition to medication, a doctor may also recommend therapies and other medical interventions.
Potential therapies include:
- CPR, in the case of heart attack
- heart bypass surgery
- valve disease treatment that uses either surgery or balloon valvuloplasty
- a pacemaker
- a cardioverter defibrillator to help maintain a regular heartbeat
- heart transplant
- a left ventricular assist device to aid in pumping blood
- enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP), which may open up small bypass channels around constricted arteries
- cardioversion to restore a regular heartbeat
- angioplasty to open up blocked arteries
In the past, doctors often recommended taking aspirin every day to reduce the risk of a stroke, even for people without a history of cardiovascular disease.
Current guidelines, however, advise against using aspirin except in rare cases, as it can increase the risk of bleeding.
A person with a very high risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and a very low risk of bleeding may still use aspirin, and those with a history of the following:
- a heart attack or stroke
- cardio or carotid revascularization
Eating a healthful diet with lots of fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of heart disease.
There are several lifestyle changes that men can make to help reduce their risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack.
Some potential lifestyle changes include:
- quitting smoking
- doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise
- eating a diet low in processed sugars
- increasing the amount of fiber, vegetables, and fruit in the diet
- lowering salt consumption
- reducing stress through meditation or yoga
- establishing a baseline of health through regular checkups to help identify problems earlier
- being aware of snoring as a potential sign of heart disease
- maintaining a healthy weight
Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women, though they may experience different signs and symptoms. It is important for people to familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms most likely for their sex.
Every adult should also schedule regular visits to their doctor to establish baseline health metrics against which it will be possible to identify changes that may signal heart disease.
There are many lifestyle changes that men can make to help prevent heart disease and avoid a heart attack. There are also treatments available for heart disease before it becomes a problem and during and after a heart attack.
If a person suspects that they are having a heart attack, it is vital to call 911 immediately to get emergency medical help.