Facts About Chest Pain
Understanding chest pain can help you beat it
Have you ever felt a sharp pain in your chest and were convinced you were having a heart attack? Maybe you even went to the emergency room or called your doctor only to find out that your “heart attack” was actually a strained muscle. Or maybe you were absolutely positive your chest pain was just heartburn, but it turned out to be a heart attack after all.
The truth is, it’s not easy to tell what’s behind your chest pain and whether the cause is life-threatening or just a nuisance. So we spoke to interventional cardiologist Gary Schaer, MD, from Rush who shared five things everyone should know about chest pain.
Shortness Of Breath Nausea And Lightheadedness
Shortness of breath can occur with or without a chest pain during a heart attack. Most people dont realize this can happen before or after a heart attack as wellespecially for women..
Research has found that shortness of breath is the third most reported symptom before a heart attack among women and the top symptom during a heart attack.
Why Is Cardiac Rehabilitation Important
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to get into a cardiac rehabilitation program where everything you need to get and stay healthy is in one convenient location. Rehabilitation programs are medically supervised to help you improve your health and well-being and change your lifestyle habits through exercise training, education and counseling to reduce stress. These programs often take place at a hospital with a rehabilitation team or with the help of your doctor, nurse, dietitian or other healthcare professionals. Ask your doctor whether cardiac rehab can help you improve your health.
Learn more about cardiac rehabilitation.
Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
- chest pain the chest can feel like it’s being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object, and pain can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms and back
- feeling weak or lightheaded, or both
- an overwhelming feeling of anxiety
It’s important to know that not everyone experiences severe chest pain. This is particularly the case with many women. The pain can often be mild and mistaken for indigestion.
It’s the combination of symptoms that’s important in determining whether a person is having a heart attack and not the severity of chest pain.
Common Causes Of Chest Pain
Most chest pain is not heart-related and isn’t a sign of a life-threatening problem. Some common causes of chest pain are outlined below.
This information should give you an idea of whether these conditions may be causing your chest pain, but you should always seek medical advice to make sure you get a proper diagnosis.
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Some Heart Attack Sufferers Don’t Experience Chest Pain At All
While chest pain is far and away the symptom most commonly associated with a heart attack, not everyone who has a heart attack feels that crushing chest pain. While some may double over due to a vice-like grip around their hearts, others may feel as though a bear is standing on their chest. Or, they may experience nothing at all.
- Women, for instance, tend to have different heart attack symptoms than men. “Often, women don’t have the classic symptoms, such as pressure-like chest pain,” says Schaer. “They more frequently experience dizziness, nausea or fatigue, and they may have chest pain that radiates to both arms instead of just the left arm, as is common in men.”
- Diabetics also may not experience crushing chest pain because they don’t have the same nerve responses as nondiabetics. When having a heart attack, a diabetic may instead feel weak or dizzy, be short of breath or just not feel well.
- Elderly patients, too, are likely to not experience chest pain.
- Individuals with a high pain tolerance, some researchers believe, may be less likely to recognize the signs of a heart attack.
“They may pass out, or feel weak or confused,” Schaer says. “If youre a diabetic or older adult or are a caregiver for a diabetic or older adult it’s important to know that these populations often experience out-of-the-ordinary heart attack symptoms so you don’t write them off.”
Chest Pain: How A Doctor Decides It Could Be A Heart Attack
Posted October 26, 2015
Patients with chest pain come to my clinic with a nervous expression and a million-dollar question, “Doctor, is it my heart?”
Such concern is valid. But understanding how medical providers think about chest pain may allay some fear.
If you come to a clinic with chest pain, your provider will have questions about the major factors for heart disease. I will ask if you:
- have diabetes
- assess your age and gender
- check to see if you have a family history of heart disease.
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What Does A Heart Attack Feel Like
Knowing the early warning signs of heart attack is critical for prompt recognition and treatment. Many heart attacks start slowly, unlike the dramatic portrayal often seen in the movies. A person experiencing a heart attack may not even be sure of what is happening. Heart attack symptoms vary among individuals, and even a person who has had a previous heart attack may have different symptoms in a subsequent heart attack. Although chest pain or pressure is the most common symptom of a heart attack, heart attack victims may experience a diversity of symptoms. The following list describes the symptoms of a heart attack in more detail.
What To Expect At Your Office Visit
Your provider may ask questions such as:
- Is the pain between the shoulder blades? Under the breast bone? Does the pain change location? Is it on one side only?
- How would you describe the pain?
- Does it begin suddenly? Does the pain occur at the same time each day?
- Does the pain get better or worse when you walk or change positions?
- Can you make the pain happen by pressing on a part of your chest?
- Is the pain getting worse? How long does the pain last?
- Does the pain go from your chest into your shoulder, arm, neck, jaw, or back?
- Is the pain worse when you are breathing deeply, coughing, eating, or bending?
- Is the pain worse when you are exercising? Is it better after you rest? Does it go away completely, or is there just less pain?
- Is the pain better after you take nitroglycerin medicine? After you eat or take antacids? After you belch?
- What other symptoms do you have?
The types of tests that are done depend on the cause of the pain, and what other medical problems or risk factors you have.
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Left Arm Pain Doesnt Always Mean Youre Having A Heart Attack Heres What To Watch For
Left arm pain and how the pain moves can be one of the key differences between mens and womens heart attacks.In men, the left arm pain will move from the shoulder down the left arm or up to the chin. If the pain comes on suddenly and is unusually severe, or is accompanied by pressure or squeezing in the chest, seek emergency treatment immediately.
In women, the pain can be subtler. It can radiate to the right or left arm. It can involve the chin, shoulder blades and upper back. The pain can reach into the abdomen and feel like nausea, indigestion and anxiety. Women are more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.
Like in men, chest pain or discomfort is a common heart attack symptom in women. The pressure or squeezing can last for more than a few minutes or be intermittent in women. Seek emergency medical treatment immediately if you have heart attack symptoms.
Not all left arm pain, achiness or difficulty moving is a sign of a heart attack. Sometimes the cause is an injury, compressed nerves or other issues that dont involve your heart.
Be mindful of the other symptoms, and if they last for more than a couple minutes, get emergency help.
How Is A Heart Attack Diagnosed
A heart attack is a medical emergency. If youre experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack, call Triple Zero and ask for an ambulance. An ambulance is the safest way to go to hospital and the quickest way to seek treatment. Treatment can start when ambulance staff arrive, saving precious minutes and preventing damage to your heart muscle. Once you get to hospital, your doctor will perform tests to diagnose if youre having a heart attack. These tests will also measure the amount of damage caused to your heart and the best treatment course to take.These tests include:
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Bone Or Muscle Problems
If your chest is painful and tender to touch, it may be caused by a strained muscle in your chest wall. This can be surprisingly painful, but with rest the pain should ease and the muscle will heal in time.
If you have pain, swelling and tenderness around your ribs, and the pain is made worse by lying down, breathing deeply, coughing or sneezing, you may have a condition called costochondritis.
This is caused by inflammation in the joints between the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone . The symptoms often improve after a few weeks and may be relieved by painkillers.
Arm Back Neck Jaw Or Stomach Pain Or Discomfort
Heart attack pain may not be confined to the chest area. Pain or discomfort in your arm, back, neck, jaw, or stomach can also be heart attack-related.
But many people do not associate pain in these areas with having a heart attack which may prevent them from getting immediate medical attention.
Some head-to-toe signs of a heart attack include:
- Jaw, neck, or back pain
- Arm or shoulder pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
If you feel sudden discomfort in these areas, call 9-1-1.
What’s The Difference Between Angina And A Heart Attack
Angina is pain felt in your chest often caused by coronary heart disease. As the symptoms of angina are similar to a heart attack, its important to know how to distinguish between the two. If you havent been diagnosed with angina and you start experiencing chest pain that feels similar to the symptoms of a heart attack, phone 999 immediately.If you have angina and you start experiencing chest pain symptoms similar to a heart attack:
- sit down and rest
- use your glyceryl trinitrate spray that youve been prescribed
- if the pain still persists after a few minutes, take another dose of your spray
- if the pain doesnt go away a few minutes after your second dose, dial 999 immediately.
When Should I Call An Ambulance
If you have any of the symptoms below, call triple zero immediately and ask for an ambulance. If calling triple zero does not work on your mobile phone, try calling 112.
You should call triple zero immediately and ask for an ambulance if:
- your chest pain is severe, or worsening, or has lasted longer than 10 minutes
- your chest pain feels heavy, crushing or tight
- you have other symptoms, such as breathlessness, nausea, dizziness or a cold sweat
- you also feel the pain in your jaw or down your left arm
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What Makes You Worry That Chest Pain Is Serious Like A Heart Attack
When is chest pain serious? That dull burning feeling in your chest doesn’t seem to be going away, and even feels like it is getting worse. Is it a heart attack, or ?
It’s a vexing question, one that millions of people and their doctors face each year. What’s the problem? Chest pain can stem from dozens of conditions besides , from pancreatitis to pneumonia or panic attack.
Millions of Americans with chest pain are seen in hospital emergency departments every year. Only 20% of them are diagnosed with a heart attack or an episode of unstable , a warning sign that a heart attack may happen soon. A few have another potentially life-threatening problem, such as pulmonary embolism or aortic dissection . Some are experiencing “regular” angina, which occurs when part of the heart isn’t getting as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs during periods of physical exertion or emotional stress. Most of them, though, had a condition unrelated to the heart or arteries.
The other tricky problem with heart attacks is that different people experience them in different ways. Some have classic chest pain. Others have jaw pain or back pain. Still others become breathless, or extremely fatigued, or nauseated.
Chest Pain Pressure Squeezing And Fullness
Picture someone having a heart attack, and chances are you imagine them gasping for air and clutching their chest before falling unconscious. While you may experience chest pain during a heart attack, it may not be as dramatic. In some cases, it may not even be described as pain. Instead, it may feel more like pressure or squeezing in the chest.
Chest pain or chest discomfort is caused by an insufficient supply of oxygen-rich blood to your heart. During a heart attack, you may feel this pain in the center of the chest. It can last for a few minutes and disappear, or it may recur after a short break.
This symptom is a warning sign of blocked or narrowed arteries. Dont hesitate to report this to your doctor, even if this and other symptoms are not intense.
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When To Contact A Medical Professional
- You have sudden crushing, squeezing, tightening, or pressure in your chest.
- Pain spreads to your jaw, left arm, or between your shoulder blades.
- You have nausea, dizziness, sweating, a racing heart, or shortness of breath.
- You know you have angina and your chest discomfort is suddenly more intense, brought on by lighter activity, or lasts longer than usual.
- Your angina symptoms occur while you are at rest.
- You have sudden, sharp chest pain with shortness of breath, especially after a long trip, a stretch of bedrest , or other lack of movement, especially if one leg is swollen or more swollen than the other .
- You have been diagnosed with a serious condition, such as heart attack or pulmonary embolism.
Your risk of having a heart attack is greater if:
- You have a family history of heart disease.
- You smoke, use cocaine, or are overweight.
- You have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
- You already have heart disease.
- You have a fever or a cough that produces yellow-green phlegm.
- You have chest pain that is severe and does not go away.
- You are having problems swallowing.
- Chest pain lasts longer than 3 to 5 days.
Signs Of Heart Attack That You Shouldnt Ignore
About every 40 seconds, someone has a heart attack in the US. Most people imagine that having a heart attack is always intense. But the truth is that sometimes you may be unsure if your are suffering from a heart attack because the signs can be subtle and different from what you may typically think of.
This makes heart attacks very dangerous. In fact, 1 in 5 heart attacks goes unnoticed, meaning the heart muscle is damaged due to lack of blood supply but the person is not aware of that this has occurred.
So what are the signs of a heart attack both subtle and not-so-subtle? Here are 4 signs of heart attack to be on the lookout for:
Can You Have Symptoms Of A Heart Attack For Days
Not all individuals who have heart attacks have similar manifestations or have a similar seriousness of side effects. A few people may have mellow torment others have more extreme pain. A few people have no signs at all, while for others, the main sign might lead to cardiac arrest. In any case, the more signs and indications you have, the more probability you have of suffering a heart attack.
Many nerves all through the heart and the gastrointestinal track send a similar signal to the mind, chest pain. In the case of the heart and stomach, you cannot tell promptly where the issue is. Wounds to the heart, pancreas, lungs, throat, or stomach may all lead to comparable pain that appears to start from the chest.
So, presently the question is if you are showing symptoms of heart attack, to what extent does the chest pain last? Would it be able to go on throughout the month or a day or for few minutes?
Whatto Do If You Notice Symptoms
Women often say theynoticed some of these three warning signs weeks or a monthbefore a heart attack.
The sooner you report aproblem, the better the chances are of catching an issue before it becomes afull-blown heart attack. If you experience any of these symptoms, take note andvisit your doctor as quickly as possible.
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When Is Chest Pain A Heart Attack
Many people delay calling 999 when having chest pain as they often think it isnt serious. You should dial 999 immediately if your chest pain:
- is sudden
- spreads to you arms, back, neck or jaw
- feels heavy or tight.
- you become short of breath or start to feel sick.
If your chest pain doesnt match these characteristics and you arent experiencing any other heart attack symptoms, there may be other explanations for your chest pain. These include angina, indigestion or a strained muscle.If you frequently experience unexplained chest pain, book an appointment with your GP as its possible you may have an undiagnosed heart condition.