Personal Injury Attorneys Jacksonville Answer the Question: Am I Having a Heart Attack or Is it Something Else?

Many of us wonder if we get a sharp pain in our chest, are we having a heart attack?  What is that pain in my arm?  Am I having a heart attack?  Should I wait to see if it gets worse or go to the doctor or E.R?  We all have a lot of questions and many we cannot answer ourselves.  There is plenty of research on the internet from various medical institutions that can assist you but it can also be overwhelming. Personal injury attorneys Jacksonville tried to highlight some information or answer some of the more commonly asked questions.  The most important thing to remember is if you have unexplained chest pain lasting more than a few minutes, it is better to seek emergency medical assistance than to try and diagnose the cause yourself.
As with other sudden, unexplained pains, chest pain may be a signal for you to get medical help. Use the following information to help determine whether your chest pain is a medical emergency.
What could be signs and symptoms of something other than a heart attack?
All too often, the mention of chest pain brings up images of a heart attack, but there are plenty of other diseases and conditions that can trigger this symptom.
Cleveland Clinic posts on their website symptoms that are unlikely to signal a heart attack as written by Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Curtis Rimmerman, MD in his book “The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Heart Attacks”

  • Momentary chest discomfort often characterized as a lightning bolt or electrical shock. Heart discomfort or pain is unrelenting, typically for several minutes. Momentary chest discomfort is more likely to result from musculoskeletal injury or inflammation, or nerve pain (e.g., a cracked rib, a pulled muscle in the chest wall or shingles involving the chest.)  IF it is a pulled muscle, research notes that a good rule of thumb is that if you can press on the wall of the chest and it feels even more painful, it’s more likely to be a musculoskeletal injury than a problem with your heart. Regardless, let a physician make that determination.  Why? Doctors don’t expect patients to be able to tell the difference between a heart attack and a pulled chest muscle
  • Pinpoint chest discomfort that worsens with positional changes in breathing. Heart pain is usually diffuse, or radiating. Pinpoint discomfort that changes with breathing is more likely to involve the lungs.
  • Chest discomfort that gets better with exercise. Heart-related pain typically worsens with exercise. Sharp chest pain that improves with movement is more likely to have other causes

What could be signs and symptoms of a heart attack?
Dr. Rimmerman of the Cleveland Clinic is quick to point out that the symptoms of a heart attack or angina can vary greatly from person to person. Some people experience no symptoms at all. Others experience crushing chest pain. Still, others may feel only arm discomfort.
The Harvard Heart Letter notes that it is more likely to be a heart attack if you experience

  • a sensation of pain, or of pressure, tightness, squeezing, or burning
  • the gradual onset of pain over the course of a few minutes
  • pain in a diffuse area, including the middle of the chest
  • pain that extends to the left arm, neck, jaw, or back
  • pain or pressure accompanied by other signs, such as difficulty breathing, a cold sweat, or sudden nausea
  • pain or pressure that appears during or after physical exertion or emotional stress or while you are at rest.

But when in doubt, visit a doctor or emergency room.
The Mayo Clinic  give pointers on what to do if you or someone else may be having a heart attack:

  • Call 911 or emergency medical assistance. Don’t tough out the symptoms of a heart attack for more than five minutes. If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have a neighbor or friend drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort, and realize that driving yourself puts you and others at risk if your condition suddenly worsens.
  • Chew a regular-strength aspirin. Aspirin reduces blood clotting, which can help blood flow through a narrowed artery that’s caused a heart attack. However, don’t take aspirin if you are allergic to aspirin, have bleeding problems or take another blood-thinning medication, or if your doctor previously told you not to do so.
  • Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed. If you think you’re having a heart attack and your doctor has previously prescribed nitroglycerin for you, take it as directed. Don’t take anyone else’s nitroglycerin.
  • Begin CPR on the person having a heart attack, if directed. If the person suspected of having a heart attack is unconscious, a 911 dispatcher or another emergency medical specialist may advise you to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). If you haven’t received CPR training, doctors recommend skipping mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing and performing only chest compressions (about 100 a minute). The dispatcher can instruct you in the proper procedures until help arrives.
  • If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available and the person’s unconscious, begin CPR while the device is retrieved and set up. Attach the device and follow instructions that will be provided by the AED after it has evaluated the person’s condition.

How do doctors determine if you are having a heart attack:
Doctors use several pieces of information to determine who is, and who isn’t, having a heart attack. The most accurate are blood tests for markers that show damage to the heart muscle, such as creatine kinase and cardiac troponin. But since it takes a while for blood levels of these proteins to get measurably high, the best early methods are an ECG (electrocardiogram) plus the story and description of your chest pain and other symptoms. & & &

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