The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Enid Features

June 21, 2014

Chest pain: What to do?

ENID, Okla. — A middle-aged male, clutching his chest with an agonized expression on his face: this represents an icon of a heart attack. As most of us know, chest pain is a major symptom of a heart attack. And doctors stress that there is no time for second guessing or denial when that or any other symptom presents itself.

Nevertheless, it should be remembered that 1) chest pain is not the only sign of a heart attack; 2) it is not even the most common sign in females; and 3) there are many possible reasons for chest pain, not all of which are even heart-related.

---

Angina and ischemia: Angina is the medical term for heart-related chest pain. It typically occurs because of inadequate flow to and through the blood vessels of the heart.

The heart is a muscle, and when it is not receiving the blood and oxygen it needs to do its work, it lets you know through pain, pressure, squeezing or other types of discomfort. Known as ischemia, this lack of blood flow typically occurs during exertion or as a result of emotional stress, extreme heat or cold, a heavy meal, excessive alcohol consumption or cigarette smoking.

Heart disease patients with blood vessels that have become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits experience frequent attacks of angina. These are not heart attacks, and they can be relieved through rest or taking prescribed medication such as nitroglycerin.

Stable angina has a predictable pattern and can be controlled. You climb a flight of stairs after dinner or rush to cross the street before the light changes, and you experience chest pain. Stop and rest for a few minutes or take nitroglycerin, and the pain goes away.

Unstable angina is less predictable and more worrisome. The severity, frequency or duration of pain increases and may even occur at rest.

Variant angina usually occurs at rest, sometimes during the night or early morning hours.

Any type of angina needs treatment, including weight loss, regular exercise, a better diet and avoidance of cigarette smoke. Medications may be prescribed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and relieve the bouts of angina.  And some patients eventually require heart surgery or angioplasty and stenting.

---

Myocardial infarction: A heart attack, known medically as a myocardial infarction, occurs for essentially the same reason — inadequate blood flow to the heart. But the situation is much more immediately catastrophic.

The surface covering of the plaque ruptures and a blood clot forms on it, completely or partially blocking blood flow. This blockage stops or significantly slows blood flow to a certain area of the heart muscle, causing immediate danger.

If the blockage is not cleared and blood flow restored within a short time, that part of the heart will become damaged or destroyed.

As with angina, the pain varies with the individual and is often hard to describe. Most patients describe it as pressure, squeezing, burning or tightness that starts behind the breast bone and may radiate to the arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, throat or back.

For women, the discomfort is more likely to be felt in the neck, jaw, throat or back. Some persons report shortness of breath as the major symptom. Other symptoms include nausea, fatigue, sweating, light-headedness, weakness and confusion.

---

Other causes of chest pain: There are many other causes of chest pain. Weight lifting or any strenuous activity that uses the chest muscles can cause soreness and pain that is likely to be longer lasting than ischemic pain. Pressing on one area can pinpoint the pain and make it worse. Arthritis, fibromyalgia and shingles can also be the source of chest pain.

The esophagus, a food tube leading from the mouth to the stomach, is served by many of the same nerves that serve the heart. Spasms of the esophagus and gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn) are often mistaken for angina. On the other hand, heart attack patients can mistakenly dismiss ischemic chest pain as heartburn.

Lung problems such as pleurisy, an inflammation or irritation of the lining of the lungs, can cause a sharp pain when you breathe in, cough or sneeze. Pneumonia can cause pleuritic or other types of chest pain — often a deep chest ache plus fever, chills, coughs and coughing up sputum.

A panic attack, which often lasts 10 minutes or longer, has symptoms strikingly similar to those of a heart attack: a pounding heart, chest pain, difficulty breathing, sweating, nausea and a feeling that you are going to die.

If symptoms such as these take you to the emergency room, there is no need to be embarrassed. As ER doctors put it: better embarrassed than dead.

---

Rupp is care coordinator for Long Term Care Authority of Enid Aging Services. Contact her at 237-2236.

1
Text Only
Enid Features
Featured Ads
AP Video
Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Palestinians and Israeli Soldiers Clash Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive
NDN Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot
House Ads
Comics