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Signs and Symptoms

Most Common

Coronary artery disease can progress for years, even decades, without symptoms. But as your arteries become more and more clogged, symptoms can manifest themselves.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Angina
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (irregular heartbeats)
  • Tachycardia (faster heartbeat)
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Heart attack


This is chest pain that comes and goes. It may feel like pressure or a squeezing pain in your chest. It can sometimes be mistaken for indigestion. You may also feel it in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back. Angina pain can be triggered by exercise, stress, cold weather or eating a large meal. It usually lasts for about 10 minutes or less. The pain usually gets worse with activity and stops when you rest. When the angina abates in a few minutes with rest or medications, it is termed stable angina. Unstable angina can often be relieved with medications, but may progress to a heart attack. Usually, more intensive medical treatment is needed.

Heart Attack

If your coronary arteries become completely blocked, you may suffer a heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack include crushing pressure in your chest, as well as pain in your shoulder or arm, often with shortness of breath and sweats.

Heart attacks come in two forms. Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction or "non-Q-wave MI" does not cause typical changes on an electrocardiogram (ECG) test, but chemical markers in the blood show that damage has been done to the heart muscle. ST segment elevation myocardial infarction or "Q-wave MI" is caused by a more prolonged period of blocked blood supply. It affects a larger area of the heart muscle and causes changes on the ECG as well as in chemical markers in the blood. If you suspect you are having a heart attack, call 911.

Contact Information

Cardiac Surgery
Division of the CardioVascular Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lowry Medical Office Building, 2A
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215