When is Chest Pain Serious?
When should you run to the ER?
Page 2 of 4
What are Other Symptoms of a Heart Attack?
Those are the typical symptoms, and the presence of all of the above symptoms certainly is cause for worry. But many people have other, atypical symptoms that are still cause for concern:
Pain isn’t on the left side: Sometimes the pain is not on the left, but on the right, the center, or even at the top of the abdomen.
Absence of pain: Some people have no pain at all; instead they just have shortness of breath. One study showed that nearly 1/3 of people having a heart attack didn’t have pain.
Sharper pain: Some experience a sharper pain, or a feeling of indigestion.
I also had one patient describe his symptoms as “a cold feeling in the chest” whenever he breathed.
How Long Does Chest Pain Related to a Heart Attack Last?
Aside from what the chest pain feels like, you should also pay attention to how long the pain lasts. Chest pain related to a heart attack usually comes on over several minutes, not suddenly. Severe pain that comes on suddenly may be something else serious, but it’s not consistent with angina from the heart. Heart chest pain almost always lasts at least 5 minutes, and doesn’t continuously last more than 20 to 30 minutes. Finally, pain that comes on at rest or exertional pain that doesn’t go away with rest is more serious and more indicative of a heart attack.
I am not saying that pain that comes and goes isn’t worrisome; it’s just not consistent with a heart attack. Pain that comes on after exercise but consistently goes away with rest may represent a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. That could lead to a heart attack, but it isn’t an emergency unless it doesn’t go away after 5 minutes of rest.