How To Tell If Chest Pain Is Serious
Some types of chest pain should send you to the emergency room particularly if it lasts for at least five minutes.
Symptoms could include new or unexplained chest pain coupled with shortness of breath, a cold sweat, nausea, fatigue or lightheadedness. Aside from your chest, the pain, pressure or discomfort also may radiate to your:
- Upper stomach.
Lasting and unrelenting pain in these areas may signal a heart attack, or myocardial infarction, says Dr. Rimmerman. Call 911 to seek immediate treatment to save heart muscle.
Changing The Body’s Position
Blood pressure can vary throughout the body due to the direct action of gravity. When a person is standing, blood pressure is higher in the legs than in the head, much in the way that the water pressure at the bottom of a swimming pool is higher than that at the top. When a person lies down, blood pressure tends to be more equal throughout the body.
When a person stands up, blood from the veins in the legs has a harder time getting back to the heart. As a result, the heart has less blood to pump out, and blood pressure may temporarily drop throughout the body. When a person sits down or lies down, blood can more easily return to the heart, and cardiac output and blood pressure may increase. Elevating the legs above the level of the heart can increase return of blood to the heart, which increases cardiac output and raises blood pressure.
Is High Cholesterol Causing Your Chest Pain
Chest pain that originates from the heart is called angina, and its due to the heart muscle receiving an inadequate supply of oxygen. Angina isnt a disease, but rather a symptom of one of several conditions. Is high cholesterol causing your angina?
Its a bit of a complex question. On the surface, the answer is no. High cholesterol typically has no symptoms of its own. However, when we look deeper, we find that high cholesterol significantly raises your risk of developing a condition that has angina as a symptom. So indirectly, carrying high levels of cholesterol does contribute to angina, even though its an arms-length relationship.
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Diagnosis Of Low Blood Pressure
Measuring blood pressure
Tests to determine cause
The doctor measures blood pressure and pulse while the person is lying down for a few minutes. If the blood pressure is not low and the person feels well, the doctor has the person stand up and rechecks the blood pressure right after standing up, and after a few minutes of standing. Other tests may be done to determine the cause of the low blood pressure, such as:
When To See A Healthcare Provider
It is important to go to your regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. Hypertension is a common condition and, if caught, can be treated with medication to prevent complications.
However, if you experience any of the symptoms of hypertension, such as frequent headaches, recurrent dizziness, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, dont waitspeak to your healthcare provider immediately.
Hypertension requires regular visits with your healthcare provider to monitor your progress. If you are already on blood pressure medication and experience any related side effects, contact your healthcare provider to see if your regimen needs to be adjusted.
Hypertension Doctor Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide for your next healthcare providers appointment to help you ask the right questions.
- Weakness, numbness, tingling in the arms, legs, or face on one of both sides
- Trouble speaking or understanding words
- Confusion or behavioral changes
Do not attempt to lower extremely elevated blood pressure in yourself or someone else. While the goal is to reduce blood pressure before additional complications develop, blood pressure should be reduced over the course of hours to days, depending on severity. It is important not to lower blood pressure too quickly, because rapid blood pressure reductions can cut off the supply of blood to the brain, leading to brain damage or death.
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Typical Angina Symptoms: 3 Symptoms To Watch Out For
Q: What are some concerning symptoms of chest pain?
A: The ones that are concerning are if the chest pain is substernal , if its provoked by exertion or stress, and if its relieved by rest or nitroglycerin tablets. If you have all three of those, we call that typical chest pain or typical angina. Those are typical angina symptoms. That by definition means that you have obstructive coronary artery disease. If you only have one of those, then we think that there’s low likelihood that you have coronary artery disease. If you have 2 of them, then it’s kind of in the gray zone and in between.
The big caveat to this is that all of these symptoms, these 3 characteristics of typical angina, were based on studies that were done in the past and really looked predominantly at men. This typical chest pain and typical angina syndrome were defined historically based on large studies of men. So women tend to not have typical angina. Women tend to have a lot of atypical angina or other symptoms like nausea, lightheadedness or bloating, and that can be their equivalent of angina, so a lot of people might not pick up on that.
What Is A Normal Blood Pressure
Both the American Heart Association and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have published guidelines for defining healthy and elevated blood pressure. You can follow either guidelines, depending on what you and your doctor agree is acceptable.
|USPSTF Guidelines for Blood Pressure
|Systolic: Less than 120 mm Hg Diastolic:Less than 80 mm Hg
|Diastolic: < Less than 80 mm Hg
|AHA Guidelines for Blood Pressure
|Systolic: Less than 120 mm Hg Diastolic: Less than 80 mm Hg
|Diastolic: Less than 80 mm Hg
|High Blood Pressure Stage 1
|Systolic: 130-139 mm Hg
|High Blood Pressure Stage 2
|Systolic: 140 mm Hg or higher Diastolic: 90 mm Hg or higher
|Systolic: Higher than 180 mm Hg Diastolic: Higher than 120 mm Hg
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What Makes You Worry That Chest Pain Is Serious Like A Heart Attack
When is chest pain serious? That dull burning feeling in your chest doesn’t seem to be going away, and even feels like it is getting worse. Is it a heart attack, or something else?
It’s a vexing question, one that millions of people and their doctors face each year. What’s the problem? Chest pain can stem from dozens of conditions besides heart attack, from pancreatitis to pneumonia or panic attack.
Millions of Americans with chest pain are seen in hospital emergency departments every year. Only 20% of them are diagnosed with a heart attack or an episode of unstable angina, a warning sign that a heart attack may happen soon. A few have another potentially life-threatening problem, such as pulmonary embolism or aortic dissection . Some are experiencing “regular” angina, which occurs when part of the heart isn’t getting as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs during periods of physical exertion or emotional stress. Most of them, though, had a condition unrelated to the heart or arteries.
The other tricky problem with heart attacks is that different people experience them in different ways. Some have classic chest pain. Others have jaw pain or back pain. Still others become breathless, or extremely fatigued, or nauseated.
Another Reason Your Chest May Hurt
That pain in your chest could be linked to another kind of attack that has nothing to do with your heart.
A panic attack or anxiety can reveal itself with symptoms chest tightness, sweating, shortness of breath that mimic those of a heart attack. There are some key differences between a panic attack and a heart attack, though.
- Many heart attacks follow physical strain or exertion, an indicator not typically connected to panic attacks.
- Panic attacks often feature a stabbing pain as opposed to the elephant-on-your-chest squeezing feeling that often accompanies a heart attack.
- Pain from heart attacks frequently radiates to other areas. In a panic attack, it usually stays in the chest area.
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Discomfort That Lessens With Exercise
If a sharp pain strikes your chest but improves as you move around a bit well, you may be looking at a case of heartburn or some other gastrointestinal issue.
An estimated 15 million Americans a day experience heartburn, which brings an uncomfortable burning feeling in your chest and a sour feeling in your throat. An over-the-counter antacid can help bring some relief.
Managing Pain And Blood Pressure With Medication
Your doctor may also prescribe medications to lower blood pressure. They will often take into account any other existing health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or kidney issues. Medications that manage blood pressure include the following:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors:Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors help prevent the narrowing of blood vessels.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers :These drugs relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure by blocking angiotensin II. This compound restricts blood flow and narrows arteries and veins.
- Calcium channel blockers: This medication prevents excessive calcium from constricting blood flow and increasing pressure.
- Diuretics:Diuretics remove extra water and sodium from the body.
- Beta-blockers:Beta-blockers lower blood pressure by lowering your heartbeat.
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Irregular Heartbeat And Chest Pain
Increased pressure in the heart makes the hearts muscles work harder than they should. Over time, these muscles grow weaker. A weakened heart cant beat as well or as regularly as it once did. Ultimately, this may cause an erratic heartbeat, a racing pulse, or heart palpitations.
Increased blood pressure in the heart and arteries may cause chest pain or pressure. An overworked heart may also cause unusual chest pain or chest pressure.
When Should I Go To The Er
Go to the emergency department or call your local emergency number if you have:
- A fast heart rate that wont go down.
- Fainting spells with loss of consciousness.
- Hickman catheter complications with intravenous prostacyclins. These include infection, catheter displacement, solution leak, bleeding and IV pump malfunction.
- Shortness of breath that doesnt go away when you rest.
- Sudden and severe chest pain.
- Sudden and severe headache.
- Sudden weakness or paralysis in your arms or legs.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A pulmonary hypertension diagnosis can cause a range of emotions. It takes time to process the diagnosis, learn whats going on inside your body and figure out how to move forward. Work with your provider to get the resources you need. Involve your family and friends in your lifestyle changes. Educate them on your condition. And most of all, know its OK to ask for help and lean on others as you adjust to your new normal.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/02/2022.
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First Thoughts When A Patient Comes With Tightness In Chest
Q: Say a patient comes in with tightness in chest, what would be on your mind?
A: Chest tightness or pain can be caused by a really broad number of things . There are a few really key characteristics that could help categorize someone’s chest pain as something acute that require you to mobilize a ton of resources right away versus other things that are not life threatening even if they may be causing the patient’s chest pain and discomfort.
Time For The Heart Muscle To Start To Die
Q: How long does it take for the heart muscle to start to die?
A: We can measure little leakage of enzymes called troponin that comes from the heart muscle. That usually becomes measurable 6-8 hours after the blood clot has formed in the coronary artery. Presumably for that first 6-8 hour time frame, after you have this sudden occlusion , you are going to feel sudden pain at that moment but your heart muscle is not necessarily dead yet. It’s still salvageable. The real key is to get your artery open again either through medicines or stent before the heart muscle dies. Usually, thats not possible because it takes a long time to mobilize everything and for someone to come to the hospital. You’re looking at around 6-8 hours before cells start dying. Thats not necessarily a huge deal if you still get to the hospital on time, but if you, for example, had the heart attack and your cells started dying starting at 6 hours and you didnt show up to see a physician until a week or 2 later, that heart muscle might be so dead that they wouldn’t even recommend opening your artery ever again because it wouldnt do anything. It wouldnt serve any purpose.
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Tips To Lower High Blood Pressure
Develop A Healthy Intake
Having a heart-friendly diet and heart-health is very much important to lessen high blood pressure. A good and healthy diet also keeps blood pressure at correct levels.
Here are the foods to include
- Lean proteins such as fish
- Whole grains
Increase Physical Activity
Obesity and overweight are the first factors for increased blood pressure. So, be physically active. Shed extra pounds if you have any. Aerobics and yoga can lower blood pressure naturally and fortify your cardiovascular health.
Try to give your body about 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. That is nearly half an hour 5 times each week.
Have The Correct Weight
If youre obese or overweight lose weight through all means- be physically active, eat healthily, and more importantly be stress-free. All these lead to a correct weight which in turn balances the blood pressure levels.
Manage Your Stress
Stress leads to overweight, high blood pressure, and other health problems. So, ensure you have healthy stress levels and do these activities
- Sleep well
Adopt A Clean And Good Lifestyle
Quit the smoke and drink moderately. If you do these two acts half your chances of falling prey to high blood pressure done away with.
Take Charge Of Your Heart Health Know Your Numbers
The American Heart Association and the Cardiovascular Institute of Carolina at Aiken Regional believe that it is crucial to get regular preventive screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and BMI. Keeping these numbers in check can help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Desirable: Less than 200 mg/dL
- Borderline: 200-239 mg/dL
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Can Pulmonary Hypertension Be Cured
Most cases of pulmonary hypertension cant be cured. Your provider may prescribe medications to:
- Ease your symptoms.
- Improve your quality of life.
- Slow down the progression of the disease.
Your provider may also recommend lifestyle changes.
However, surgery can cure some people with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension .
What Do Blood Pressure Numbers Mean
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers:
The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.
If the measurement reads 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, you would say, 120 over 80, or write, 120/80 mmHg.
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Causes Of Chest Pain And Dizziness
While chest pain and dizziness can be unsettling, you usually dont need to rush to the hospital. But you do need to get to the bottom of these symptoms, because they could indicate a serious health condition.
Dr. James Lee at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care can give you the peace of mind you need when dealing with these concerning symptoms. Whether your condition is minor and easily treated, or major and in need of advanced medical treatment, Dr. Lee cares for you every step of the way.
Here are some of the conditions that might be causing your chest pain and dizziness.
Is Chest Pain Normal
No. Chest pain isnt normal. If you have chest pain, contact your healthcare provider or 911 right away.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Although most people think of a heart attack when they think of chest pain, there are many other conditions that cause chest pain. Know the signs of a heart attack and seek medical attention soon after you start having pain. Make a mental note of what you were doing when your chest pain happened so you can tell your healthcare provider. Being able to describe the kind of pain youre having and where can help your provider give you a diagnosis.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/23/2022.
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Prinzmetal’s Or Prinzmetal Angina Variant Angina And Angina Inversa
Unlike typical angina which is often triggered by exertion or emotional stress Prinzmetals angina almost always occurs when a person is at rest, usually between midnight and early morning. These attacks can be very painful.
Prinzmetal angina may also be referred to as:
- Variant angina
- Prinzmetal’s variant angina
- Angina inversa
Prinzmetals angina is rare, representing about two out of 100 cases of angina, and usually occurs in younger patients than those who have other kinds of angina.
Causes of Variant Angina: The pain from variant angina is caused by a spasm in the coronary arteries .
The coronary arteries can spasm as a result of: