Five Things Everyone Needs to Know about Chest Pain

heart shape with stethoscope

Most of us have probably seen those big moments on television where the actor grabs his chest or arm and falls to floor, presumably having a heart attack. Sometimes it happens that way in real life but many times the warning signs are not that dramatic. Here are five things you need to know about the warning signs of a heart attack.

    1. Chest pain may not seem like pain at all. You may feel like someone is pressing very hard on your chest or there is something squeezing inside your chest. Sometimes it doesn't feel like pain, pressure, or squeezing but you just have a feeling of discomfort in your chest.

    2. Sometimes chest pain really is pain, but you may feel it someplace else. If you have pain anywhere between your stomach to your jaw that you can't quite explain it may be related to your heart.

    3. If you can't quite seem to catch your breath for some unexplained reason it may be a warning sign of a heart attack.

    4. Other warning signs may occur with or without chest pain and include things like feeling lightheaded, or feeling cold, but sweating at the same time, or even feeling sick to your stomach with or without vomiting.

    5. If you are a woman your warning signs may not be as pronounced as the ones listed above. Women are more likely to experience feeling sick to their stomach, not being able to catch their breath, and/or pain in their back or their jaw rather than extreme pain in the chest.

The important thing to remember if you are experiencing these symptoms is to contact 911 and go to the Emergency Department as soon as possible.

The American Heart Association recommends the following as preventative measures for a heart attack: stop smoking; get yourself to a healthy weight by eating healthy meals; start exercising; and consult with your doctor to know your numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels).


Dr. Virginia Stoll-Tyrrell is the Chest Pain Center Medical Director at SwedishAmerican.