Heartburn, angina and heart attack may feel very much alike. Even experienced doctors can't always tell the difference from your medical history and a physical exam. That's why, if you go to the emergency room because of chest pain, you'll immediately have tests to rule out a heart attack.
Pulmonary Embolism (blood clot in the lung)
One lung problem, pulmonary embolism, can mimic a heart attack and is equally serious. A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in an artery in the lungs. This clot cuts off blood flow, and the lung tissue begins to die.
Takotsubo syndrome is a sudden and acute form of heart failure. Symptoms can be similar to a heart attack. It is also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, broken heart syndrome, acute stress induced cardiomyopathy, and apical ballooning.
Signs of a heart attack include:
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. - Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort. - Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. (If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.)
People who have a silent heart attack might think they've had heartburn, the flu or a strained chest muscle. But a silent heart attack, like any heart attack, involves blockage of blood flow to the heart and possible damage to the heart muscle.
How do I know if my chest pain is serious? Call 911 or have someone take you to the closest emergency room right away if you have chest pain that lasts longer than five minutes and doesn't go away when you rest or take medication. Cardiac chest pain can be life-threatening. Chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack.
Chest pain from a heart attack often feels like a large amount of pressure, tightness, burning, or squeezing in the chest. In comparison, chest pain that feels like a sharp or knife-like pain resulting from coughing or breathing is likely not due to a heart attack.
The symptoms of non-cardiac chest pain are chest pain that may be associated with difficulty swallowing, pain when swallowing, regurgitation of food, or a sensation of food getting stuck.
Pre-Heart Attack Symptoms – Female
Men may feel pain and numbness in the left arm or the side of the chest. In women, these symptoms may appear on the right side. Women may experience unexplained exhaustion, or feel drained, dizzy or nauseous. Women may feel upper back pain that travels up into their jaw.
Common heart attack symptoms include: Chest pain that may feel like pressure, tightness, pain, squeezing or aching. Pain or discomfort that spreads to the shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, teeth or sometimes the upper belly. Cold sweat.
Those with an anxiety disorder have most likely experienced a panic or anxiety attack at some point in their lives. The symptoms can closely mimic heart attacks for some people—they may feel chest pain, shortness of breath and heart palpitations, or a racing heartbeat.
The pain of a heart attack differs from that of a strained chest muscle. A heart attack may cause a dull pain or an uncomfortable feeling of pressure in the chest. Usually, the pain begins in the center of the chest, and it may radiate outward to one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Discomfort in other areas of the upper body.
Red flags to alert a possible diagnosis of heart attack
Clammy, unwell patient. Exertional chest pain. Heavy, tight, pressure type chest pain. Pain radiating to left arm, right shoulder or both arms.
Anxiety, indigestion, infection, muscle strain, and heart or lung problems can all cause chest pain. If your chest pain is new, changing or otherwise unexplained, seek help from a health care provider. If you think you're having a heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency number.
If your chest pain lasts more than a few minutes or becomes more severe, don't wait. Call 911 immediately.
Over 50% of heart attacks have "beginning" symptoms that may come and go for days or weeks.
Can you have a heart attack and not know it? Yes. A heart attack can actually happen without a person knowing it. You can understand why it is called a "silent" heart attack.
You may not even know you've had a silent heart attack until weeks or months after it happens. It's best to know what's normal for your body and get help when something doesn't feel right.
Electrocardiogram. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is an important test in suspected heart attacks. It should be done within 10 minutes of being admitted to hospital. An ECG measures the electrical activity of your heart.
Heart attack patients will feel a wide range of emotions, typically for about two to six months after the event. Depression is quite normal, along with fear and anger. For example, every time you feel a little pain, you may feel afraid it's going to happen again — afraid you're going to die.