Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What conditions mimic a heart attack?"
I?m always paranoid about having a heart attack because heart disease is in my family. I sometimes have chest pains, they?re not serious, but of course this increases my anxiety.
This is an important question to discuss with your primary care physician. The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain. It is usually felt below the breastbone, but sometimes can be felt in the left chest or upper abdomen. The pain is described by most patients as pressure, burning, or sometimes sharp or crampy pain. Sometimes, the pain radiates to the arms, neck, jaw, back or belly. People experiencing chest pain should always have their heart checked by a doctor, but there are certainly other things that can cause similar types of chest or upper abdominal pain. Sometimes disorders of the muscles, bones, or joints of the chest wall can cause pain that mimics the pain of a heart attack. Disorders of the digestive system such as heartburn, acid reflux, and certain disorders of the esophagus (the food tube) can cause chest or upper abdominal pain that can be confused with cardiac pain. A wide variety of different lung disorders can cause chest pain that, to a greater or lesser degree, can mimic cardiac chest pain. Finally states where excess adrenaline is released, such as reactions to certain drugs, medications, extreme stress, and even anxiety disorders, can cause chest tightness and pain that can feel remarkably similar to a heart attack. The most important thing you should take away from this information is that all these problems can cause symptoms that mimic chest pain, but the only thing that can determine with certainty the cause of chest pain is a complete examination in person by a physician. Among other things, family history is an important risk factor for heart attacks. If you have a strong family history of coronary artery disease, especially if you are experiencing chest pain, it is important to visit a primary care physician or cardiologist to be evaluated as soon as possible. There is no substitute for evaluation in person by a physician to determine whether or not your episodes of chest pain are due to your heart or some other cause.
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