Vim & Vigor - Fall 2020 - GMC - 23

23

ILLUSTRATION BY VICTOR BREGANTE/GOODILLUSTRATION.COM

Noncardiac
Chest Pain
in Men vs.
Women
esophagus to gastroesophageal
reflux disease (GERD).
It can be tricky to tell the difference between GERD and a
heart attack, says Ellen M. Stein,
MD, a gastroenterologist and
fellow of the American College
of Gastroenterology.
"Typically if you're having pain
when you're exerting yourself or
moving around, it could be your
heart, because the esophagus
doesn't tend to get excited when
you're walking around," she says.
"But I have had some patients with
GERD pain so severe they say they
feel bad when they move, too."
All the more reason to make sure
your heart is OK first, especially if
you have cardiac risk factors.
Back pain also can masquerade
as chest pain. "Musculoskeletal pain
can be anywhere from the neck to
the abdomen; anything in there
can cause chest pain," Golden says.

What to
Do When It
Is Your Heart

You never know when you or
someone you love could experience a heart attack. Discover
more about the warning signs
and risk factors at heart.org/en/
health-topics/heart-attack.

We've learned that
men and women can
experience chest pain
differently during a
heart attack. But what
about noncardiac
chest pain?
While men and
women experience
noncardiac chest
pain equally, how we
perceive and react
to our symptoms can
be different, says
Angela Golden, a family
nurse practitioner and
past president of the
American Association
of Nurse Practitioners.
"We use different
words to describe
the pain," she says,
citing a 2011 study
in the Journal of
Neurogastroenterology
and Motility that found
that women are more
likely to use words such
as "burning" or "frightening" to describe noncardiac chest pain.
And just as with
other health concerns,
the study found that
women were more apt
than men to seek care
for their chest pain.
"Women are more
likely engaging with
care providers, because
they are caregivers
themselves," Golden
says. "When they
have pain and can't
do the things they
can normally do for
their family, they look
for answers."

"Back pain can radiate to the front."
A fractured rib or pulled muscle can
also be a culprit.

Spot Other
Potential Suspects

A variety of other health problems
can cause noncardiac chest pain,
such as lung conditions like pneumonia or pleurisy, an inflammation
of the lining of the lungs, as well as
shingles, a rash caused by a virus.
"If the pain is along one of the
nerves near the heart, it can occur
before a shingles rash breaks out,"
Golden says. "So while it may not
be obvious at first, that's going to
be on my checklist, especially for
older adults."
Stress and anxiety can also cause
or mimic chest pain.

Get Pain Relief-and
Peace of Mind

Because there are so many possible
causes of noncardiac chest pain,
you'll want to follow up with your
primary care provider once you
have ruled out a heart issue.
"A lot of my patients think, 'It
wasn't my heart, so I don't need to
worry,'" Golden says. "But it can
still be an issue that impacts your
quality of life."
Stein offers similar advice to
people who may have convinced
themselves their pain is not a
heart problem without getting an
actual diagnosis.
"You don't need to second-guess
yourself or panic. But if you're starting to have chest pain-especially
if you've had a heart attack before-
you shouldn't wait to seek care,"
she says. *
VIM & VIGOR FALL 2020


https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack

Vim & Vigor - Fall 2020 - GMC

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Vim & Vigor - Fall 2020 - GMC - Contents
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