Vim & Vigor - Fall 2020 - GMC - 21

21

Whether it's sudden and dull or sharp and burning,
a pain in your chest probably sends your thoughts
straight to one place: I'm having a heart attack. And
that's an understandable assumption, as more than
805,000 Americans have a heart attack each year,
according to the American College of Emergency
Physicians (ACEP). But don't despair: Many causes
ILLUSTRATION BY VICTOR BREGANTE/GOODILLUSTRATION.COM

of chest pain aren't actually related to the heart
at all. And some of them may surprise you.
To Start, You Must
Assume It's Your Heart

Because a heart issue is the most
serious and potentially deadly
cause of chest pain, before we
get into other possible causes-
also known as noncardiac chest
pain-it's important to rule out a
heart problem.
Angela Golden, a family nurse
practitioner and past president of

the American Association of
Nurse Practitioners, is straightforward: "Chest pain is your
heart until we prove it isn't. You
need to call 911 and be transported to the emergency department," she says. "Because if it is
heart-related, you don't want to
be driving or riding in a car. You
need to be monitored on the
way there."

Recognize Heart
Attack Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms of a heart attack include
pressure, pain, or feelings of fullness or squeezing in the center of
your chest. It may last for longer
than a few minutes or go away and
then return. The pain may spread
to your shoulders, neck, jaw, arms
or back, and it may happen with
lightheadedness, fainting, sweating,
nausea or shortness of breath.
Less common symptoms include
dizziness, unexplained fatigue, a cold
sweat, abnormal chest pain, or stomach or abdominal pain that may feel
like heartburn or indigestion.
These can all be cause for concern
and a reason to take action. And
keep in mind that while chest pain
or discomfort is the most common
heart attack symptom in both men
and women, women are more apt to
experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
To help determine the cause of
your chest pain, physicians start
by considering your symptoms
and risk factors, often using a tool
known as the HEART score. The
score places patients with chest pain

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Vim & Vigor - Fall 2020 - GMC

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