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Chest Pain in Heart Attack

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Chest Pain in Heart Attack

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Although chest pain can have other possible causes, it can sometimes be a symptom of a heart problem. Read this article below to know more about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. K. Shobana

Published At January 3, 2019
Reviewed AtNovember 4, 2022

What Is Chest Pain?

Chest pain refers to pain in any area of the chest that may spread to other body areas, such as down your arms, into the neck, or jaw. The pain can be sharp or dull. In addition, there may be tightness, achiness, fullness, or feeling like the chest is being crushed or compressed. Chest pain can last for a couple of minutes to hours. In some cases, it can even last six months or longer. Chest pain can occur for several reasons, including heart issues. Therefore, one should always take chest pain seriously and get prompt medical assistance. Most heart attacks involve chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and returns.

What Does Chest Pain in a Heart Attack Feel Like?

Angina is a form of chest pain that happens when the heart does not get enough oxygen-rich blood. The symptoms of angina include:

  • Angina is a manifestation of a heart problem that worsens during exertion and improves when at rest.

  • Angina typically feels pressure or squeezing in the chest and discomfort in the shoulders, arms, jaw, neck, and back, similar to indigestion.

  • It may be diffused or localized.

  • It may sometimes feel like a heavy weight lying on the chest.

  • It comes on suddenly, but not instantaneously, may increase in intensity over minutes, and lasts for more than 20 minutes.

  • But sometimes, heart attack chest pain is preceded by angina (angina pectoris is the pain in the chest that occurs on exertion and resolves with rest or medicines) by a few hours to days.

  • Having chest pain is one of the most common heart attack symptoms in men and women. However, women are at an increased risk of developing other symptoms, including feeling sick, shortness of breath, and back or jaw pain. Although angina is relatively common, it can be difficult to distinguish from other types of chest pain, such as the discomfort from indigestion. For any unexplained chest pain, seek medical help right away.

Why Do Heart Attacks Cause Chest Pain?

A heart attack typically happens when there is an insufficient blood supply to the heart's muscle cells. Without the blood-delivered oxygen required for the heart's muscle cells to function, they malfunction and can even die. The heart pumps out blood around the body, so if it malfunctions, the entire body becomes oxygen-deprived, leading to death. Decreased blood supply to the heart usually occurs by plaque build-up blockage in a coronary artery. The chest pain from a heart attack directly results from the heart muscle cells not receiving enough blood.

Other Warning Signs of a Heart Attack:

The common heart attack signs include:

  • Sudden sweating, upset stomach, vomiting, dizziness, or lightheadedness.

  • Severe weakness, anxiety, unusual fatigue, or shortness of breath.

  • Fullness, indigestion, or a choking feeling that may feel like heartburn.

  • Fast or uneven heartbeat.

  • Pain in the arms, neck, jaw, shoulder, or back.

  • Fainting.

How Is Chest Pain Diagnosed?

Before the treatment can begin, a few tests are done to know what is causing the chest pain. These tests include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)- This is often the first test performed to diagnose a heart attack by electrical tracing of the heart activity.

  • Blood Tests- These laboratory tests measure cardiac markers from the heart and other organs.

  • Chest X-Ray– Itis done to view the condition and size of the heart and lungs.

If the healthcare professional suspects angina, they may order further tests, such as an angiogram or CT scan of the chest.

How Is Chest Pain Treated?

Treatment for chest pain often depends on the root cause of the pain. For example, if a heart attack is causing chest pain, seek emergency treatment as soon as possible. Treatment may include medications and a procedure or surgery to restore blood flow to the heart. If left untreated, the heart attack can cause more damage. In some cases, it can be life-threatening. Unfortunately, many people die of heart attack or suffer permanent damage to the heart because of a lack of awareness about the signs or waiting too long to act.

How Can Chest Pains Be Prevented?

One can reduce the risk of heart, vascular and other diseases by following a healthy lifestyle, including:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Take the help of a dietitian to get a suitable heart-healthy diet plan.

  • Manage other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

  • Exercise or involve in physical activity most days of the week.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Limit the amount of alcohol.

  • Avoid using tobacco products.

  • Manage stress.

  • Do not ignore any chest pain or avoid or delay getting treatment.

  • Take medications as instructed by the healthcare provider.

When to See a Doctor?

Cardiac chest pain can be fatal. Get emergency medical attention if the chest pain is new, occurs suddenly, lasts longer than five minutes, and does not improve with rest or taking medications. Chest pain can indicate a heart attack.

If the chest pain goes away or returns, see a healthcare provider as soon as possible to find out what is causing the pain, even if it is not severe.


Although many people experiencing chest pain think of a heart attack, many other conditions also cause it. Therefore, it is critical to know the signs of a heart attack and seek medical attention immediately after pain. Describe the kind of pain to the healthcare provider so they can help diagnose the cause of the pain and provide an effective treatment plan. While many other less-serious medical conditions can cause chest pain, it is better to play it safe.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is Chest Pain Indicative of a Heart Attack?

Yes, chest pain is the primary symptom of a heart attack. However, not all chest pain is caused by a heart attack. Some chest pain occurs due to non-cardiac origins, such as muscle pain or gas. Some heart attacks occur without causing chest pain. Furthermore, chest pain should not be ignored because it can indicate a future heart attack.


How Bad Does It Hurt in the Chest During a Heart Attack?

During a heart attack, the pain in the chest occurs in the center or on the left side, and it gives a feeling of discomfort and heaviness as if someone has tied up a band around their chest and tightened it. This discomfort lasts for a few minutes. During a heart attack, the individual also feels sweating, dizziness, headache, pain in the jaw, neck, back, and left arm, and sometimes feels like vomiting.


What Does a “Pre-heart Attack” Mean?

The body gives some warning signs a few weeks before the occurrence of the heart attack. These symptoms are termed pre-heart attacks. These symptoms include
- Anxiety.
- Excessive tiredness.
- Shortness of breath.
- Pain or numbness in the left side of the chest, especially during exertion.
- Backache or jaw pain.


How Can One Check Whether They Have a Heart Attack?

If someone wants to test themselves for a heart attack, they should know the difference between normal chest pain and a heart attack. Chest pain is called angina in medical terms. Angina symptoms consist of chest pain, which is typically felt when working out, and pain or discomfort that goes away after a rest. Whereas a heart attack has the following symptoms:
- A sudden, uncomfortable feeling of pressure, squeezing, fullness, or discomfort in the middle of the chest that does not go away with rest.
- Aches or pain in the back, neck, jaw, one or both limbs, or the stomach.
- Chest pain or discomfort together with shortness of breath.
- Additional symptoms include cold sweats, nausea, or lightheadedness.


What Symptoms Indicate a Mini-Heart Attack?

Heart attacks are caused by blockages in the arteries that supply the heart. A mini heart attack is nothing but a heart attack that causes less destruction to the heart muscles. This is because the blood flow to the heart is partially restricted and not completely blocked during a "mini" heart attack. It causes symptoms comparable to other types of heart attacks, such as chest pain, suffocation, breathlessness, pain in the jaw, arm, back, and neck, sweating, headache, dizziness, and nausea.


Can an ECG Identify a Heart Attack?

Yes, ECG (electrocardiogram) is usually the initial test conducted to identify a heart attack by monitoring the heart's electrical activities. It aids in the confirmation of a heart attack diagnosis. In addition, this test also aids in determining the sort of heart attack an individual has experienced, which helps in determining the most effective treatment. It can also detect previous heart attacks.


Can a Heart Attack Last for Days?

No, a heart attack occurs for a few minutes and fades away and might come back for a few minutes. It is doubtful that a heart attack would have been the source of the chest pain if it persisted for several days, weeks, or months. The pre-heart attack symptoms last for several days.


What Is the Duration of a Heart Attack?

A typical episode of a heart attack may last for a few minutes (mostly around two to five minutes). However, the severe form of heart attack that includes complete blockage of heart arteries may last up to 20 minutes. The duration differs for different individuals.


Does Silent Heart Attack Cause Pain?

A silent heart attack is called silent because it comes with either no symptoms or very mild symptoms. The pain may or may not occur. If pain occurs, it is not as severe as that of a heart attack. The symptoms of a silent heart attack are listed below.
- Flu-like symptoms.
- Pain in the upper back, chest muscles, arms, or jaw.
- Bloating.
- Tiredness.


What Does a Mild Heart Attack Mean?

A mild heart attack usually means the milder form of a heart attack, which does not cause much harm to heart muscles, and a quick recovery is expected. In this type of heart attack, the amount of oxygenated blood that could reach the heart muscle becomes limited due to a partially blocked coronary artery.


What Should be the First-Aid Treatment for a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is an emergency condition that needs immediate medical attention. If someone is experiencing a heart attack, they should be rushed to the hospital. For first aid treatment, the following measures should be taken:
- Allow the individual to sit, rest, and attempt to remain calm.
- Remove any tightened clothing, like a scarf, to facilitate breathing.
- Pain relievers, like Nitroglycerin, can be given if readily available.
- If the pain does not fade away within three minutes of receiving Nitroglycerin or with rest, seek emergency medical attention.
- Call the emergency number if the affected individual is unconscious and unresponsive, and then begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).


What Is the Location of a Heart Pain?

Heart pain occurs on the left side of the chest or may appear in the center of the chest. Chest pain from gastrointestinal issues usually occurs at a particular point, whereas chest pain due to a heart attack is diffused and radiates to the jaw, arm, and back.
Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq
Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq



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