Chest Pain

Overview

What should you do if you have chest pain?

Call 911 or have someone take you to the closest emergency room right away if you have chest pain that lasts longer than five minutes and does not go away when you rest or take medication. Cardiac chest pain can be life-threatening.

Chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack. Other signs of a heart attack include:

  • Sweating.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Light-headedness or fainting.
  • A rapid or irregular heartbeat.
  • Pain in your back, jaw, neck, upper abdomen, arm or shoulder.

What is chest pain?

Chest pain is pain in any area of your chest. You may feel the pain in your back, lungs, ribs, muscles or center of your chest. Chest pain can be sharp or dull. You may feel tightness, achiness, or you may feel like your chest is being crushed or squeezed. Chest pain is often intermittent (lasting for seconds, minutes to hours), but it can also be chronic, which means it lasts six months or longer.

What is angina?

Angina is a type of chest pain that happens when your heart is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Angina is a symptom of a heart problem.

Angina can feel like pressure or squeezing in your chest. It can also cause discomfort in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw and back. Angina sometimes feels like indigestion.

Possible Causes

What causes chest pain?

Although most people think of chest pain as a sign of a heart problem/heart attack, it can be caused by many things. Chest pain can be a symptom of:

Care and Treatment

What should I do if I have chest pain?

Do not ignore any type of chest pain or avoid getting treatment.

If your chest pain is new, comes on suddenly, or lasts longer than five minutes after you rest or take medication, call 911 or have someone take you to the closest emergency room.

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

What treatments are available for people with chest pain?

Treatment for chest pain depends on the cause of the pain. If your chest pain is caused by a heart attack, you will get emergency treatment as soon as you seek help. This can include medication and a procedure or surgery to restore blood flow to your heart. If your chest pain is caused by a non-cardiac condition, your healthcare provider will talk to you about treatment options.

How can I prevent chest pain?

You can reduce your risk of heart, vascular and other diseases by following a healthy lifestyle. This includes:

  • A healthy diet. Your healthcare provider or registered dietitian can help you create an eating plan that is right for you.
  • Managing health conditions you have, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Exercising most days of the week.
  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.
  • Not smoking or using tobacco/nicotine products.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I call my healthcare provider about chest pain?

Call 911 or have someone take you to the closest emergency room right away if you have chest pain that lasts longer than five minutes and does not go away when you rest or take medication. Cardiac chest pain can be life-threatening.

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