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How To Differentiate Between Anxiety And Heart Attack

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What Causes A Heart Attack

Difference Between Heart Attack and Anxiety Attack Explained!

You experience a heart attack when one or more of your coronary arteries are blocked. The condition is referred to as coronary heart disease and is among the major causes of a heart attack. You may experience a complete or partial blockage of the coronary arteries.

Some of the risk factors of heart attacks include:

  • Age. Women over 55 and men above 45 years of age are more likely to have heart attacks.
  • Smoking. This includes tobacco smoking and long-term secondhand exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Obesity. Obesity is linked to diabetes, high blood cholesterol, and high blood pressure, which increase the likelihood of a heart attack.
  • High blood pressure. Hypertension can damage the arteries leading to your heart. Its worse if you have other lifestyle diseases like obesity.
  • High blood cholesterol. A high level of low-density lipoprotein narrows the arteries.
  • Genetic predisposition. Youre more likely to have a heart attack if its prevalent in your family.

What Does A Panic Attack Feel Like

Panic attacks feel awful, which is why theyre scary, and why theyre easy to confuse for a more serious physical health problem. Often people have a feeling that they might die, says MaryAnn McLaughlin, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai. Not pleasant! Panic-attack symptoms can also include abrupt, sharp chest pains, tingling in the hands, sweating, shortness of breath, a racing heart, and a sense of doom. But one of the main ways theyre distinguished from heart attacks is by their length most panic attacks will be over within ten minutes , while heart attacks can last much longer.

The Symptoms Of A Heart Attack Include Major Chest Pains And Shortness Of Breath

Heart attack symptoms differ according to gender. Male patients will say they have an acute onset of chest pain that often occurs during physical exertion, Leibowitz says. Theyll describe it as a crushing, stabbing pain and often hold their chest with a clenched fist. Men usually describe pain radiating to their left arm and jaw. Womens symptoms can be less obvious. The most common symptoms in women are shortness of breath and fatigue, notes Leibowitz. Theyll say they feel winded and sick, like they have the flu.

Dr. Sandra Sicular, emergency medicine physician, adds that many medical professionals may overlook shortness of breath and fatigue in women. Because their presentation can be atypical, their heart attacks may often be misdiagnosed as panic attacks.

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Trouble Breathing And Solution

Heart attacks can cause trouble breathing, specifically a shortness of breath. Panic attacks can cause trouble breathing as well. During severe panic attacks, a person may have serious challenges getting a breath, and the difference between that and a heart attack is minimal. Thus it is not necessarily a good indicator.

But as you learn more about panic attacks, you may start to notice that you can somewhat control your breathing to be a bit more efficient. Instead of shortness of breath, you may notice that you have this intense desire to get more air that isnt fulfilled by yawning or trying to take a deep breath. That is more of a symptom of hyperventilation.

Hyperventilation is when you breathe too quickly and expel too much Co2. But it causes whats known as a paradoxical reaction, where you feel like you cant get enough oxygen and try to breathe deeper. Since your body already has enough oxygen, your ribs dont expand and the breaths feel less fulfilling. If that describes your experience, it is more likely to be a panic attack.

How To Tell The Difference Between Anxiety And A Medical Emergency

How Anxiety and Panic Attacks Differ

Complete Question

How can I know if my symptoms are caused by anxiety or a real medical condition/emergency, such as a heart attack, stroke, MS, or cancer?


Because there are many medical conditions that can cause anxiety-like sensations and symptoms, we recommend that you discuss all new, changing, persistent, and re-occurring symptoms with your doctor. If your doctor concludes that your symptoms are caused solely from anxiety and/or stress, you can be assured that there isnt another medical condition causing them. Generally, most doctors can easily tell the difference between anxiety and/or stress caused sensations and symptoms from those caused by other medical reasons – because other medical conditions/emergencies have sensations and symptoms that are unlike those caused by anxiety alone.

If you are uncertain about your doctors diagnosis, however, you may want to seek a second and even third opinion. But if all three opinions concur, you can feel confident that anxiety and/or stress is the cause of your symptoms and not some other medical or biological problem.

In this case, if symptoms appear, you can be confident that anxiety and/or stress is the cause, and nothing else.

Moreover, its wise to become familiar with your anxiety symptoms so that when they occur, you know they are anxiety related only. This knowledge can help you contain when they occur rather than reacting with fear and uncertainty.

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Difference Between Heart Attack And Anxiety Attack

Heart Attack vs Anxiety Attack ;

Heart Attack

Heart is the organ that pumps the blood throughout the body. Heart works continuously from birth to death. Heart also needs oxygen and nutrition supply via blood. The heart is supplied by coronary arteries. When the supply of the blood is stopped or reduced to a critical level, the heart muscle dies. Heart muscle cannot regenerate if the muscle cells are dead. The death of the cardiac muscle due to ischemia is named as heart attack. Myocardial infarction is the medical term used for heart attack. Heart attack causes severe pain. This is an utmost intensity, unbearable pain. Pain and ischemia activates the sympathetic system of the body. This sympathetic system will increase the heart rate, sweating, increase the respiratory rate and palpitations.

Heart attack is a serious condition, which may end up in sudden death. Hypertension, smoking, fatty food, and lack of exercise are the main risk factors for developing heart attack. Heart attack is caused due to the coronary arteries blocked by cholesterol deposition; the atheroma plague suddenly breaks and occludes the coronary vessels, or blood may clot with the deposition of cholesterol and obstruct the blood supply. Depending on the degree of occlusion severe pain to sudden death may result.

Anxiety Attack

What Causes Anxiety Chest Pain

When youre anxious, your body can and often does produce physical reactions like sweating or shortness of breath.

When you become anxious, your brain and body set off an immediate stress response. This includes a physiological change. Your body may tighten up or grow tense.

A stress response can also include a psychological or emotional response. You may become aggressive or upset more easily. These responses are referred to as the fight-or-flight response. When you become stressed or anxious, your body prepares to fight back or run away.

If you experience this fight-or-flight stress reaction infrequently, your body should fully recover within 30 minutes. But if you experience it frequently, your body cant recover as quickly. This can lead to increased muscle tension, and this tension may become painful in your chest.

Likewise, in an even more stressful moment, your heart rate may increase, and the force of your heartbeats can grow stronger. That combined with tight chest muscles can make you feel unusual pain.

If you feel anxious, there are some simple techniques you can try. These techniques may not work every time, but theyre a great starting point when you need help managing your anxiety.

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Monitor Your Heart To Detect Anxiety Or Atrial Fibrillation

The best way to truly understand whether anxiety causes a fast heart rate, or if a fast heart rate causes anxiety, is to monitor your heart.

A heart monitor records your heart rhythm day and night. Some automatically record all heart rhythms; others require you to push a button when you feel heart symptoms. When you dont have symptoms, heart monitors may not provide the information needed for a diagnosis. For that reason, I have patients use them for two to four weeks to increase my chances of capturing the event.

Over the past two years, more people are using their smartphones to keep track of their activity and heart rate, but;each device has limitations. What’s important, however, is your;daily trend.

Your heart rate varies throughout the day by a few beats per minute up to 10 bpm, even when doing very little activity or experiencing infrequent stress. When exercising, the variation may be more pronounced and change more quickly, which allows us to quickly adapt to different situations and challenges. When you look at the daily trend, you will quickly find your normal. This normal will have the lowest heart rates at night, and then change predictably during the day while at work and rest, and during exercise.

Did You Know: You Can Experience Anxiety Symptoms When You’re Not Feeling Anxious

Health Anxiety vs. Heart Attack, When to Get Help

There is an issue known as limited symptom panic attacks. These are when your body has less than 4 of the physical symptoms of an anxiety attack, and they may occur even when you’re not suffering from anxiety.

Those that get panic attacks are prone to these limited symptom attacks and experience issues like chest pain and shortness of breath without any triggers – often leading to future worries about their own health. It’s hard to know if you have limited symptom attacks without knowing your anxiety.

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The Cause Of The Symptoms Is Different

One of the major differences between a heart attack and a panic attack is the cause of the symptoms, or what actually happens in your body to trigger the attack. During a heart attack, there isnt enough blood flowing to your heart. This strains the heart muscle and can lead to permanent damage. The reduced blood flow causes symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath, and, with time, it can damage the heart muscle. Other common symptoms of a heart attack include nausea, pain in the left arm or jaw, and lightheadedness.

There are medical tests and procedures that can look at your heart to determine whether you are having a heart attack and whether your heart muscle has been damaged.;

Although the symptoms of a panic attack can feel very similar to a heart attack, they are not related to decreased blood flow to the heart. In fact, the blood flow to your heart may be completely normal during a panic attack. Instead, panic attacks are caused by an exaggerated response of intense fear to things in the environment that would not normally cause that kind of reaction. Because the symptoms are not due to decreased blood flow to the heart, the results of medical tests during a panic attack are typically normal.

What Is An Anxiety Attack

As mentioned previously, an anxiety attack is not a recognized medical condition as defined by the DSM-V. But this doesnt mean that it doesnt exist. Rather it is a term people with anxiety use to describe very intense or extended periods of anxiety.

Many people live with low-level anxiety on a daily basis. But every now and then, their anxiousness may increase, either gradually or suddenly, to a higher level than is usual for them. Symptoms of these anxiety attacks are more severe than the simple feeling of anxiety but less severe than a panic attack and may be short-lived or persist for days, sometimes weeks. Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling particularly wound up or on edge
  • Feeling irritable
  • Difficulty concentrating or periods where your mind goes blank
  • Having difficulty controlling worries
  • Sleep problems
  • Tire easily
  • Restlessness.

Sometimes an anxiety attack is a prelude to a panic attack. For example, some people have experienced anxiety attacks on the way to an airport because they have previously had a panic attack on an airplane.

Anxiety attacks do not necessarily indicate that a person has an anxiety disorder, although anxiety as a symptom is linked to numerous mental health conditions, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD. Anxiety is appropriate in some circumstances and anxiety attacks are only more intense forms of that emotion.

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Ways To Manage A Heart Attack

A heart attack is a medical emergency. Its critical to call emergency services as soon as you suspect a heart attack. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, it may be helpful to chew a tablet of aspirin as long as youre not allergic to aspirin. Aspirin can thin the blood and possibly improve blood flow to the heart.;

Treatment at the hospital will depend on the severity of the heart attack. The two treatment options are:

  • Thrombolytic medicine to dissolve blood clots
  • A nonsurgical procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention that opens narrowed or blocked arteries;

Anxiety Or Heart Problem: Signs And Symptoms

Lock down : Coping with Anxiety

Anxiety and heart attacks share many of the same symptoms, but in reality, they are very different conditions. Anxiety or panic attacks are the bodys natural response to a fight-or-flight situation, although the cause of one of these attacks usually isnt dangerous!

Heart attacks occur when blood is unable to flow through the hearts arteries, depriving the body of oxygen. Since one of these conditions is non-threatening while the other is very dangerous, its important to know the difference between anxiety or a heart problem. Heart problems and anxiety can happen whether or not you have a history with them. Both of them may seem very similar because many of their symptoms are identical!

Both conditions include:

  • Difficulty Breathing or Shortness of Breath
  • Intense Feeling of Doom
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Weak or Tingling Feeling in Limbs

Its no wonder why telling the difference between the two is difficult! The most accurate way to determine if you have anxiety or heart problems is to visit your doctor. They can determine your hearts health as well as your stress and anxiety levels.

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Tachycardia Can Cause Anxiety

Abnormal heart rhythms of more than 100 beats per minute that come from the upper heart chambers are called supraventricular tachycardias . These can occur in healthy hearts as well as in people who’ve had prior heart injuries or problems. In most people, SVTs are random events not triggered by exercise or other activities. SVTs cause symptoms of heart palpitations, lightheadedness, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and, at times, they may cause you to pass out. The mind responds and can cause further symptoms of anxiety and panic.

Most of the time, I encounter people who’ve had anxiety for a few years and for whom medications haven’t worked which prompted their doctors to look for additional potential causes.

Characteristics Of The Pain

Although chest pain is common to both a panic attack and a heart attack, the characteristics of the pain often differ.

During a panic attack, chest pain is usually sharp or stabbing and localized in the middle of the chest.

Chest pain from a heart attack may resemble pressure or a squeezing sensation.

Chest pain that occurs due to a heart attack may also start in the center of the chest, but can then radiate from the chest to the arm, jaw, or shoulder blades.

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Anxiety Or Heart Attack

Its always hard to tell the difference between anxiety and heart attacks, since their physical symptoms can feel incredibly similar in individuals. It is very easy to confuse them and thus avoid getting the proper treatment and even save our lives if we are suffering a heart attack without being aware of it. There are certain signs that can give us a clue about these two diseases and let us know when we need to look for medical attention as soon as possible. Lets review them!

Understanding Anxiety

While feeling anxious or stressed, your body reacts in order to protect you from the immediate danger. This situation can easily put an extra worry on your heart since youre feeling vulnerable, under stress, or sense a demanding situation you cannot possibly deal with anymore. Feeling anxious is a normal reaction in humans, even if there is no immediate danger around you.

The problem then is not anxiety itself, but what it does to our bodies in the long term and when all these fears and reactions occur with no apparent reason. When anxiety becomes a setback in our lives and a panic attack occurswith no warning, usually triggered by a stressful event, the anxiety becomes constant and overwhelming, it interferes with your relationships and activities, you are no longer productive or functional and feel unable of managing your daily life.

  • Palpitations & chest pain
  • Numbness of hands and feet
  • Muscle tension or Trembling

The Symptom Duration Is Different

How to Tell the Difference Between Panic Attacks and Heart Attacks

Another important difference between a heart attack and a panic attack is how long the symptoms last. For a heart attack, the symptoms often last only minutes to a couple of hours. Chest pain from a heart attack may come and go, but is unlikely to happen day after day. Panic attack symptoms, on the other hand, usually last about 10 minutes, but may happen several times a day or for many days in a row. Some people deal with daily panic attacks; others have symptoms only a couple of times each year.

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/6what Is A Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery supplying the heart with blood and oxygen becomes blocked or obstructed. This restricts the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart muscles. Some heart attacks are instant and can be fatal, while others are smaller events that serve as warning signs to make necessary changes in the lifestyle and diet.

Typical signs of a heart attack involve:

Chest discomfort

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