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Health and Fitness News

Is It a Heart Attack?

Eight possible causes for chest pain other than a heart attack

Chest pain should never be ignored. If you’re not sure what’s causing it, it’s best to the emergency room in case it’s a heart attack. While some heart attacks cause intense and sudden chest pain, others only cause a feeling of discomfort in the chest that comes and goes and lasts more than a few minutes. Some describe the feeling as a pressure, sense of fullness, squeezing, or pain. Other possible symptoms of a heart attack include shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, and pain or discomfort in your arms, neck, back, jaw, or stomach.

However, heart attack isn’t the only reason you might suffer chest pain. Several other health conditions cause similar symptoms. All require medical attention.
Here are a few common explanations for chest pain.

Angina

Coronary artery disease leads to blockages in the blood vessels that supply the heart. These blockages are caused by an accumulation of plaque on artery walls. When blood flow to the heart is restricted you may have chest pain, pressure, or squeezing. The pain may extend to your back, shoulder, or arms.

This condition is called angina. While angina doesn’t permanently damage your heart, it does increase your risk for a future heart attack. Angina pain is most often felt during exercise or when experiencing strong emotions. It typically goes away with rest.

Pericarditis

Your heart is surrounded by a protective sac. When this becomes inflamed or infected, it can cause sharp, steady pain. The pain commonly occurs when breathing deeply or lying down, and it may run to your shoulders and neck.

Heartburn

While the digestive system isn’t in your chest cavity, several digestive disorders can cause chest pain. When stomach acids find their way up the esophagus, you may experience burning in your chest. Heartburn is often caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also called acid reflux. GERD occurs when the muscle between the esophagus and stomach weakens and allows a backflow of stomach acid. Spicy or greasy foods, smoking, pregnancy, and obesity increase your risk of heartburn.

Pancreas or Gallbladder Problems

Gallstones, inflammation, or infection of the pancreas or gallbladder can cause chest pain. The pain is usually in the lower chest area and may worsen when you lie down. When you lean forward, the pain may lessen.

Hiatal Hernia

With a hiatal hernia, the top part of your stomach forms a bulge into your lower chest between the muscles that separate your diaphragm and abdomen. When this happens, you may all sorts of symptoms. You may experience chest pain, heartburn, acid reflux, shortness of breath, and feelings of fullness after just a small meal. The chest pain may worsen after a big meal or when you lie down.

Panic Attack

Panic attacks can be mistaken for a heart attack due to their similar symptoms. You likely know that a panic attack comes with feelings of fear, anxiety, and impending doom. But did you know it can also bring on chest pain, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, a rapid pulse, and dizziness? Sometimes these attacks even come on with no apparent trigger.

Shingles

The same virus that causes chickenpox in children can reemerge years later as shingles. This extremely painful condition causes blisters, usually around your back or chest. The pain may be so severe that you may think you’re having a heart attack.

Pulmonary Hypertension

Several lung disorders can cause chest pain, including pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lung’s arteries). When the blood vessels that supply the lungs become narrowed, blocked, or damaged, blood flow is restricted to your lungs. In addition to chest pain, you may also experience shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness.