Heart attacks catch people by surprise most of the time…Without having a clear diagnosis of heart disease, it’s important to recognize heart attack symptoms-the top 6 and get immediate medical assistance.
- Any organ or tissue in your chest can be the source of pain, including your heart, lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs, tendons, or nerves.
- Pain may also spread to the chest from the neck, abdomen, and back.
Chest Pain or Chest Discomfort
Few symptoms are scarier than chest pain. It definitely falls into the category of heart attack symptoms-the top 6, with variations, as you’ll read below.
In the minds of many people, chest pain equals heart pain. And while many other conditions can cause chest pain, cardiac disease is so common – and so dangerous – that the symptom of chest pain should never be dismissed out of hand as being insignificant.
However, when it comes to heart attacks, the words “chest pain” themselves, aren’t all that accurate…
- They’re often used to describe any pain, pressure, squeezing, choking, numbness or any other discomfort in the chest, neck, or upper abdomen
- They’re often associated with pain in the jaw, head, or arms.
“Chest Pain” can last:
- From less than a second to days or weeks
- Can occur often, rarely, sporadically or predictably
Those are pretty vague descriptions and there are other medical conditions with the same or similar symptoms, but it’s a start…
Causes of Chest Pain
Heart or blood vessel problems that can cause chest pain:
- Angina or a heart attack
➡ The most common symptom is chest pain that may feel like tightness, heavy pressure, squeezing, or crushing pain. The pain may spread to the arm, shoulder, jaw, or back.
- A tear in the wall of the aorta:
➡ The large blood vessel that takes blood from the heart to the rest of the body causes sudden, severe pain in the chest and upper back.
- Swelling (inflammation) of the sac that surrounds the heart (pericarditis)
➡ Causes pain in the center part of the chest.
- Lung problems that can cause chest pain:
➡ A blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism).
➡ The collapse of the lung (pneumothorax).
➡ Pneumonia causes a sharp chest pain that often gets worse when you take a deep breath or a cough.
➡ Swelling of the lining around the lung (pleurisy) can cause sharp chest pain that often gets worse when you take a deep breath or a cough.
➡ Panic attacks, which often happen with fast breathing.
➡ Shingles, which causes sharp, tingling pain on one side that stretches from the chest to the back, and may cause a rash.
➡ The strain of the muscles and tendons between the ribs, often from over-exercising or lifting weights.
- Some digestive problems may have symptoms that also mimic heart attacks.
➡ Spasms or narrowing of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach)
➡ Gallstones cause pain that gets worse after a meal (usually a “fatty” meal).
➡ Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
➡ Stomach ulcer or gastritis: Burning pain occurs if your stomach is empty and feels better when you eat food
In children, chest pain is very rarely caused by the heart.
When Should You Consider Chest Pain as an emergency?
- An unusual “awareness” of the heartbeat is an extremely common symptom.
- Most people who complain of palpitations describe them either as “skips” in the heartbeat (that is, a pause, often followed by a particularly strong beat) or as periods of rapid and/or irregular heartbeats.
Palpitations are more commonly felt by those with cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) such as premature atrial complexes (PACs), premature ventricular complexes (PVCs), episodes of atrial fibrillation, or supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).
Unfortunately, on occasion, palpitations can signal a more dangerous heart arrhythmia, such as ventricular tachycardia.
1. Sudden crushing, squeezing, tightening, or pressure in your chest.
2. Pain that spreads (radiates) to your jaw, left arm, or between your shoulder blades.
3. You have nausea, dizziness, sweating, a racing heart, shortness of breath.
4. You know you have angina and your chest discomfort is suddenly more intense, if it’s brought on just by lighter activity, or if it lasts longer than usual.
5. Your angina symptoms occur while you are at rest.
6. You have sudden, sharp chest pain with shortness of breath, especially after a long trip, a stretch of bedrest (such as, following an operation), or other lack of movement, especially if one leg is swollen or more swollen than the other (this could be a blood clot, part of which has moved to the lungs).
***The symptoms of heart attacks in women can be an entirely different thing…The articles listed below explain why more thoroughly and highlight the necessary steps for female patients and physicians to make sure you get an adequate diagnosis and plan of treatment.