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Chest Pain: Top Facts
Called angina when it signals a possibility of heart attack, chest pain is generally considered the most common symptomatology of cardiovascular disease. But if you experience chest pains, such as heaviness, pressure, discomfort, aching or burning sensations, don't immediately think you are having a heart attack!
There are many causes of chest pain, and it is also sometimes thought to be heartburn. Doctors have tests which they can perform to check this out.
What is the basis of chest pain? It takes place when blood flow in the arteries of the heart are blocked. This causes oxygen and nutrient deprivation for the heart and results in pain.
When is it serious?
If the pain intensifies and is more than five minutes in duration, leaving you weak, breathless, nauseated or fuzzy headed, call the doctor immediately, as it can be a sign of an oncoming heart attack.
Another key fact? Chest pain is less likely during a heart attack in women, diabetic patients, and older persons. There are other signs of a heart attack such as nausea and sweating.
Causes: Why Chest Pain Strikes
A blockage in the blood vessels of the heart reducing the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle causes angina. This symptom of heart disease does not cause permanent damage to the heart, but it signals a chance you may develop a heart attack at some point. Angina is a type of pain that can be triggered by exertion, tension or stress. When the blood flow to the heart muscle stops, the cells die, and a more intense pain in the chest then signals a heart attack. Chest pain can also be caused by myocarditis (this is a condition when heart muscles become inflamed.)
Some of the problems caused in the lungs can also lead to chest pain. This include:
- Pulmonary embolism
- Pulmonary Hypertension
Pleuritis or pleurisy is a condition where the lung and chest linings undergo inflammation or irritation. A sharp pain will be felt when the person coughs or breathes deeply.
Lung infections such as pneumonia or lung abscess are equally painful and cause chest pain. Pulmonary embolism is when the blood clot travels to the lungs where it causes trouble in breathing as well as chest pains.
An injury where a part of the lung collapse is called pneumothorax and this also leads to pain when you breathe. High blood pressure in the lung arteries (pulmonary hypertension) and asthma(inflammation of airways) can also cause chest pain.
Some of the digestive system causes of chest pain involve the following:
- Swallowing Disorders
- Gallstones/Pancreatic problems
Heartburn is when there is stomach acid reaching the tube linking the throat to the stomach or the esophagus. Swallowing disorders of this tube can also cause chest pain. Pain in the abdomen and chest can also result from the gallbladder or pancreatic problems.
Chest pain can also result from injuries to muscles and bone. Costochondritis or condition where the rib cage cartilage becomes inflamed leading to pain is also leading to chest pain. Sore muscles and injured ribs from chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia can also result in chest pain.
Symptoms of Chest Pain
Chest pain is commonly thought to be a sign of heart attack. There are, however, different kinds of symptoms of chest pain including:
- Tightness of chest
- Pressure in the chest
- Pain that spreads to back, neck, shoulder, arms, jaw
- Pain that varies in intensity
- Pain that comes back or goes away with activity
- Shortness of breath, nausea, sweating
It can be pretty tough to differentiate between chest pain due to a heart attack. But some of the symptoms that ensure chest pain is less likely to be caused by heart attack include:
- Sour taste in mouth
- Pain that changes in intensity with change in body position
- Tenderness in chest
- Pain that gets worse when you do a cough or breathe deeply
Heartburn can be associated with digestive problems as much as it can be linked to heart attack. So, see a doctor if you are suffering from this symptom.
Treatment of Chest Pain
Treatment is based entirely on what is causing the chest pain.
Some of the most common drugs used to treat chest pain include:
- Clot-busting drugs
- Artery Relaxers
- Blood Thinning Medicines
- Acid Suppression Medication
Medical Treatments Including Surgery
Balloons and stent placement are used when the chest pain is caused by a blockage in the artery carrying blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the heart.
Doctors insert narrow tubes into the groin blood vessel and thread it to then use a balloon and reopen the artery. Then a stent or a short wire is inserted to ensure the artery remains open.
Heart bypass surgery is when doctors take a blood vessel from the body and create an alternative way for blood to reach heart muscles rather than going through a blocked artery.
Aortic dissection repair is also a common treatment for chest pain. Finally, if the lung problem is causing chest pain, doctors will carry out lung reinflation by inserting a tube in the chest.
- Some of the ways you can prevent chest pains from attacking you are common sense. Eat right and maintain a good posture.
- Don't indulge in rich foods that increase your cholesterol and cause arteriosclerosis. Be careful of your fat intake and regulate the salt and sugar in your diet.
- Apart from nutrition, you need to stay in good physical condition. Carry out ROM or range of motion exercises that build flexibility and offer your body the capacity to withstand periods of inactivity without leading to pain.
- From wearing your seat belt in the car to a protective head and chest support while playing contact games, there are many ways to ensure your chest is protected against muscular pain.
- Always be alert while carrying heavy items because this can also trigger chest pain if the load exceeds your capacity to bear it.
In the ultimate analysis, eating right and doing plenty of exercises can safeguard you against chest pain. Whether the cause is due to cardiovascular or digestive problems, good eating habits and plenty of activity will stand you in good stead.
Maintaining good lung health through breathing exercises and safety checks against pollution can also save you from chest pain. Always remember chest pain does not mean you have a heart attack.
There can be a host of other reasons for it. Contact your healthcare practitioner if you feel the onslaught of symptoms. You could end up saving your life.