Anything from stomach upset to emotional distress to heart disease could cause that squeezing chest discomfort you’re experiencing. Regardless of the cause, the earlier you check in with a physician, the quicker you receive the care you need.
Dr. Mark L. Meyer of Madison Avenue Cardiology is one of New York’s top cardiologists. He also provides internal medicine services and customized preventive care strategies through his concierge medicine service.
One of Dr. Meyer’s goals is to provide the facts his patients need to make informed decisions about their health care. Read his guidance regarding chest pain and why you shouldn’t ignore it.
Understanding chest pain
“Chest pain” is a general term that may involve burning, aching, sharp, or squeezing discomfort in the right, left, or center of your chest, from your neck to your upper abdomen. You might feel like a heavy weight is sitting on your chest, or the discomfort may occur in your upper abdomen or travel to your mid-upper back.
Sometimes, chest pain begins suddenly, fades within a few moments, and then returns. It can also start slowly and build up over hours to days. It may occur with physical exertion, worsen when you breathe deeply, or improve when you change positions.
To confuse things further, chest pain can be mild, moderate, or severe, and the level of pain does not always correspond to the underlying condition. For instance, many people experiencing a heart attack describe their chest discomfort as minor, while some digestive issues cause severe pain.
What causes frequent chest pain?
Chest pain may be related to numerous underlying conditions, and many are not heart-related. For instance, one of the most common causes of chest pain is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Other noncardiac causes of chest pain include asthma, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung), bruised ribs, gallbladder disease, and pancreatitis.
But chest pain is also a symptom of cardiac conditions that can become life-threatening, including:
- Heart attack
- Coronary artery disease
- Arrhythmia (irregular heart rate and rhythm)
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
- Heart failure
- Valvular heart disease
Some conditions responsible for chest pain, such as GERD, are not typically a medical emergency, but they can lead to serious medical complications without treatment.
When is chest pain an emergency?
As we stated, chest pain can indicate a heart attack, pulmonary embolism, or other life-threatening emergency. Thus, Dr. Meyer recommends seeking emergency care if you develop chest pain that worsens, lasts longer than five minutes, or goes away and then comes back.
Other symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweats
- Nausea or vomiting
- Racing heartbeat
Otherwise, Dr. Meyer encourages his patients to contact him whenever they’re concerned about their overall health or the symptoms they’re experiencing.
Pain is your body’s warning that something has gone awry. In most cases, an early diagnosis is a crucial component of successful treatment.
Schedule an evaluation with Dr. Meyer at Madison Avenue Cardiology in New York City today. Call our midtown Manhattan office, or request an appointment online.