Chest Pain Is A Signal From Your Heart That It Needs Help Quickly

Health & Medical Blog

Any form of chest pain is an abnormal event that requires your attention. A sudden pain in your chest from exerting yourself, called angina, is a warning that something is wrong with your heart muscle. As you relax, the pain goes away. If you ignore this warning, the next pain could be a crushing heart attack indicating that your heart is failing. Here is what you need to know about the warning signs and what to do before you have serious, and possibly fatal, heart problems.

The Heart Works Like a Muscle

Like the other muscles in your body, your heart needs a constant flow of blood to keep it working. Oxygen is the most important nutrient in the blood for muscle tissue. Should your heart become deprived of oxygen, cells in the heart begin to die and the heart begins to beat erratically. This triggers a pain response known as angina.

Angina goes away when the added stress on the heart goes away. For example, you may have chest pain after climbing a set of stairs, which goes away when you reach the top and relax. But the pain is a sign that you need to see heart doctors soon to have your heart problem diagnosed. Failure to heed these warnings could lead to more painful consequences.

Causes of Heart Disease and Heart Failure

The heart relies on special blood vessels, called coronary arteries, to provide the heart muscle with blood. Should one or more of these vessels become blocked, a portion of the heart muscle will fail and you'll have a heart attack. There are several conditions under which these blood vessels can't provide enough blood for your heart:

  • Atherosclerosis is a disease that causes the coronary arteries to become stiff and inflexible. They can no longer carry sufficient blood to the heart.
  • High cholesterol levels can cause fatty deposits in the blood vessels which partially blocks the blood flow.
  • Diabetes affects the walls of the blood vessels so they can't pump as much blood through them.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Some of the common experiences that people have during a heart attack include:

  • Pressure in the chest - This can range from a dull tightness to intense pressure. A burning sensation in the chest may accompany the pain, which may be mistakenly identified as heart burn.
  • Radiating pain - While the pain originates in your chest, you may feel it extend into your back, neck and left arm. You may even have numbness and tingling in your arm and hand.
  • Cycling pain - The pain is often not constant, but cycles between mild and intense. As you relax, the pain subsides, but if you exert yourself again, the pain escalates.

Get Help When You Experience Any Level of Chest Pain

Even mild chest pain is a sign of a heart problem that will likely not go away. Heart specialists will determine the extent of the damage to the coronary arteries and recommend various treatments. For a mild blockage of the arteries, your doctor may prescribe diet changes and medication that will open up the arteries to allow more blood through.

For severe or permanent blockages, surgery may be recommended, such as:

  • Placement of a device in the coronary artery to hold it open.
  • Replacement of the artery with one from another part of your body, often from your leg.


30 November 2015

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