Let's start by making one thing very clear: If you, or someone you are with, experiences chest pain, call 9-1-1 immediately. Do not hesitate. Chest pain is a very serious condition and can be life threatening, especially if you also have dizziness and shortness of breath. Get help right now!
But also, don't panic. There are conditions, other than heart attacks, that can cause chest pain, but aren't as life threatening. These may include:
- GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease): GERD can closely mimic the pain of a heart attack, but is actually caused when the contents of your stomach leak back into the esophagus, causing irritation, heartburn and pain.
- Costochondritis (chest wall pain): This type of pain is caused by tenderness in the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breastbone. If pushing your finger into your chest causes tenderness in that area, it's more likely costochondritis than your heart, but again, it's best to check it out.
- Anxiety attack (panic attack): This condition can also have chest pain associated with it. As your heart pounds, your chest feels tight and it's hard to breathe. But chest pain brought on by an anxiety attack goes away when you calm down, while chest pain from a heart attack will be more intense, painful and will not go away.
- Other causes of chest pain include: muscle strains, gallbladder pain and even gas. All of these can contribute to pain in your chest area, which can easily be confused with a heart attack.
So don't mess with chest pain. It is far better to be safe than sorry. Trained medical response professionals will help you to determine if there is a problem, and heart specialists can quickly give you the attention you need if that turns out to be the case.
At Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center our average “door-to-balloon” time is 54 minutes, much faster than the national standard of 90 minutes. If you are having a heart attack, the faster you receive care the better; and the better your care the better your outcome. So while we hope it's not a heart attack, if it is we'll take great care of you, quickly.