If you experience these symptoms, call 911 or have someone drive you to the nearest hospital because you may be having a heart attack:
- Sharp chest pain starting in your chest or arms, but it may radiate to your neck and jaw.
- Shortness of breath
- Cold Sweat
- Abdominal Pain
A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is when blood flow is blocked to the heart causing cell death. Several symptoms could indicate a higher risk of a heart attack like high cholesterol, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure.
735,000 people have heart attacks in the United States every year. Furthermore, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When the Heart Causes Chest Pain
Chest pain (also referred to as angina) could be the result of a heart-related condition and should be taken seriously. Men are more at risk of heart disease, but chest pain in women is still just as serious. Persistent or sharp left side chest pain or center chest pain is a sign of a heart problem.
Angina conditions outside of heart attacks include:
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): A blockage in coronary blood vessels usually attributed to high cholesterol buildup of plaque. Narrowed blood vessels increase blood pressure and cause chest pain on your left side. Symptoms of CAD can be triggered by anxiety, excitement or exercise. It takes decades for CAD to develop but is a large factor in the risk of a heart attack. There’s a wide range of treatments of CAD, but a great way to treat and prevent CAD is a healthy lifestyle.
- Myocarditis: Inflammation of muscle tissue in the heart usually caused by a viral infection but can be caused by other infections, allergic reactions, and toxins. Myocarditis is most common after contracting infections in other parts of your body due to infection-fighting cells being pumped into your heart. Sometimes myocarditis doesn’t have any symptoms, and people recover without knowing it. On the other hand, myocarditis can be mistaken as a heart attack by patients, but the disease also shares symptoms of an infection such as fever, muscle aches, headaches, joint pain, diarrhea, and swollen joints and legs.
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM): This disease is caused by heart muscles which are thicker than normal. Thick heart muscles force it to work harder to pump blood and can lead to problems with blood flow. As this condition progresses, the risk of heart failure increases. Many people who have HCM have no symptoms, while others can experience chest pain, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, fainting and rapid heartbeat. These symptoms can be exacerbated with exercise. HCM is a genetic condition and cannot be prevented, but early screenings can help to prevent further heart complications and heart failure.
- Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP): This occurs when the flaps of your mitral valve bulge (the valve between the left atrium and left ventricle). This bulging, also called prolapse, can cause blood to be pushed back into the left atrium when the heart contracts in a condition called mitral valve regurgitation. People with MVP usually don’t experience any symptoms and the disease usually isn’t life-threatening, but in severe cases treatment may be required. The symptoms of MVP include fast or irregular heartbeat, dizziness/lightheadedness, shortness of breath when lying down or exercising, chest pain and fatigue. MVP can increase the risk of heart infection.
- Pericarditis: This condition is the inflammation of two sacs surrounding the heart called the pericardium. Pericarditis can be both acute and chronic, which is to say, this disease can happen suddenly then recover quickly or develop over time and therefore take longer to treat. Pericarditis can cause center chest pain which may radiate to other parts of the body, increased heart rate, and a low fever. The causes of pericarditis can be hard to pinpoint, but it has been associated with infections, heart attacks, cancer, kidney failure and use of certain medications. Most of the time pericarditis clears up on its own with rest but may need treatment to prevent further heart problems.
Diagnosing Chest Pain Conditions
Chest pain is a common occurrence for people in the United States. Outside of general heart problems, chest pain can be a result of conditions concerning the lungs, esophagus, ribs, muscles or just a simple case of acid reflux. For example, chest pain while breathing or chest pain that comes and goes could be linked to respiratory issues.
However, the cause of chest pain should only be determined by a licensed physician. Many of the conditions listed above can be diagnosed with the help of an electrocardiogram, blood tests, and a physical examination.
If you’re worried about your chest pain, go to the hospital if it’s an emergency. We are always accepting new patients and