There are several symptoms which indicate cardiac disease but no symptom is cardiac specific. A doctor will assess the characteristics of a symptom such as relieving and aggravating factors to make a diagnosis.

Here are some common symptoms and their causes. This brief information should not be used for self diagnosis.

This image shows a flight of stairs. Chest pain on exertion indicates the possibility of angina.

Chest Pain

Causes of chest pain include coronary disease which reduces the blood flow to the heart, valve disease which reduces blood supply to the body and abnormal heart rhythms.

Cardiac chest pain often occurs on exertion.

This is an image of someone lying flat in bed. Shortness of breath on lying flat can indicate heart failure and patients may need to sleep on many pillows.

Shortness of Breath

Breathlessness can be caused by heart failure, valve disease, cardiomyopathy, coronary disease and abnormal heart rhythms.

Features of breathlessness which help identify a cardiac cause include breathlessness that occurs on lying flat. This may indicate heart failure.

This image shows a metronome. The rhythm and speed of palpitations can help doctors decide whether there is an abnormal heart rhythm.


This is an awareness of the heart beating. Usually, palpitations are not due to an abnormal heart rhythm but investigations are often required to exclude this.

“Tapping out” palpitations with your finger may help a doctor identify whether you have a heart rhythm problem because it gives an indication of heart rate and regularity.

The most common heart rhythm problem is atrial fibrillation.

This is a picture of a stopwatch. The heart has only to stop for 3 seconds before a patient blacks out.

Dizziness and Blackouts

Important causes include abnormal heart rhythms, cardiomyopathy and valve disease.

The duration of blackouts and the speed of subsequent recovery helps to make a diagnosis.

Symptoms are used to draw up a list of possible diagnoses and commonly, investigations are then carried out to make a final diagnosis.