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Heart symptom you're most likely to miss

Cardiologist says fatigue is often overlooked

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. – It's a subtle symptom of heart disease that too many people are ignoring.

"They don't recognize that when they are fatigued and tired, that they should go to the doctor to get checked, that's often the biggest symptom that they miss," said Dr. Joan Crawford, a cardiologist at St. John Macomb.

Crawford said many people, especially women, are quick to write off their fatigue as normal.

"Many women say, 'I'm 70. I'm just tired because I'm 70,'" said Crawford. "I always try to get them to say, 'But you were 69 and a half six months ago, what really changed in six months?'"

It's that change that's key. While fatigue can have many causes, it's a big red flag for heart trouble. Fatigue can occur weeks or months before any other symptoms.

"No one knows what the face of heart disease is. No one really knows if it applies to them," said Crawford.

As the heart becomes unable to pump enough blood to meet the demands of the body, it diverts blood away from less vital areas, especially muscles in the arms and legs. The result is fatigue and trouble doing physical activities.

"If you can't do what you could do six months ago, tell your doctor and make sure that you've had a cardiac work-up recently and make sure that you're going to be okay," said Crawford.

Above all, don't ignore fatigue or other symptoms.

"I think most people have a sense when something is wrong with their body," said Crawford. "Be sure to recognize any change in your own symptoms. Be your own advocate, and be sure you have a physician you can communicate with."

To learn more about heart disease, click here. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/