It’s completely normal to be worried about chest pains. After all, it could be a sign of an underlying serious heart issue. How do we tell the difference between a heart attack, a passing ache, anxiety or acid reflux? Read on to find out how to tell if what you’re feeling are signs of coronary artery disease (CAD).
Heart-related chest pain (Angina)
What does it feel like?
There’s a feeling of fullness or tightness in the chest and you can’t pinpoint its precise location. It often feels like a squeezing, pressure-like sensation in the centre of the chest, or it may feel vague but is making you feel very uncomfortable.
Where do I feel it?
While the pain is often at the centre of your chest, it may radiate. It can be described as a crushing or searing pain that seems to spread from the centre of the chest to the neck, jaw, upper back, shoulders or arms (especially on the left side!)
This pain may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, light-headedness, difficulty breathing, cold sweats, or weakness.
If you experience any of these symptoms, call an ambulance (dial 995) and get emergency treatment immediately!
When do I feel it?
If the chest discomfort comes on when you exerting yourself and goes away at rest, it is very suggestive of coronary artery disease. If the chest discomfort occurs with less and less activity over time, this may indicate that the symptoms are worsening and you should seek urgent medical attention. Some people may experience lower chest or upper abdominal discomfort after a heavy meal which may suggest heart-related chest pain rather than gastric discomfort.
When should I not be alarmed?
Don’t be alarmed if:
1. You know its precise location
You can pinpoint and locate the exact source of the pain
2. It is brief and intense
If it’s a sharp, shooting pain that lasts a few seconds
3. It burns
This sensation may more likely be a symptom of heartburn or acid reflux. You may feel a burning sensation behind your sternum or a sour taste in your mouth especially when lying down.
4. It is tender
You can replicate the pain when you push on your chest.
5. It is positional
The pain gets better or worse when you change your body position or when moving, or if the pain intensifies when you breathe deeply or cough
Can a heart attack last for days?
Heart attack pain usually varies in intensity and may persist for several hours, making you feel very uncomfortable. It is unlikely to be a heart attack if you feel the same pain intensity continuously for several days or longer.
When should I see a doctor?
If you have new or unexplained chest pain or suspect you are having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately.
Any kind of chest pain is worth getting evaluated, and CAD is responsible for approximately one-third of all deaths in people over the age of 35 worldwide. It is important to consult your cardiologist for a proper heart screening and diagnosis, especially for men over 40 years old and women over 50 years old.