Definition Of A Heart Attack
Q: What is a heart attack?
A: A heart attack is when one of the blood vessels that typically feeds blood and oxygen to the heart muscle itself becomes blocked. Thats the colloquial meaning of a heart attack. In medicine, we call it a myocardial infarction. It usually happens in the context of a patient or person who already has small pre-existing blockages scattered throughout the arteries that feed your heart called the coronary arteries.
Can An Anxiety Attack Really Feel That Bad
During an anxiety attack, adrenaline courses through your body. Everyone experiences the result of this adrenaline differently, but some symptoms are common, such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, dizziness, sweating, trembling, an upset stomach and a feeling like you might die.
Unfortunately, a panic attack has symptoms that closely resemble those of a heart attack, making it hard to tell the difference between the two, says cardiologist , who practices at the UW Medicine Regional Heart Center Cardiology Clinic.
Your body is preparing you to either fight off a threat or flee to safety, and thats serious stuff, she says.
Heart Attack Chest Pain
So what are heart attack symptoms?
A heart attack is when the blood flow or blood supply that feeds the heart itself is blocked. Heart attack symptoms include :
- Chest pain that continues to get worse with exertion
- Chest pain that radiates to your arms or jaw
- Heavy pressure in the chest area and a squeezing sensation
- Fast heart rate and shortness of breath
Some people feel exhausted or say they have back pain, and close to 30% of people having a heart attack dont even report chest pain .
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Learn How To Address Your Symptoms
If you have anxiety and pain, medically-reviewed strategies like the ones above might help, but there is no better substitute for speaking with a licensed mental health professional. Working with a counselor will allow you to immediately get started on relieving your symptoms and reducing the frequency of any related pain. Therapy has been shown to reduce certain symptoms of anxiety, especially those who struggle with GAD, panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety disorder.
If you struggle with anxiety and stress, read reviews of BetterHelp therapists, from people experiencing similar issues below.
Chest Tightness Due To Anxiety: Symptoms Causes And Solutions To Relieve It
- Chest tightness is a real, common physical symptom of anxiety
- It is more common in some types of anxiety than others
- Breathing exercises have a direct effect on chest tightness, although it may not address all the different causes
- It is not uncommon for chest tightness from anxiety to trigger further anxiety, especially in those with health fears
- How you address the tightness has to do with its cause. However, all anxiety related chest tightness will decrease if a person learns to manage their anxiety
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How You Can Tell If You Are Suffering From Anxiety
The easiest way to determine if you are suffering from anxiety-induced chest tightness is by ruling out any cardiac or lung-related disease. Only a physician can rule these out completely.
A few signs can be helpful in determining if your chest tightness is cardiac-related. This is by no means an all-inclusive list. So, when in doubt, please visit your primary care physician. Generally, the following is more likely to be true of anxiety-related chest tightness and/or pressure:
- It is less likely to radiate towards the back, arms, or shoulders.
- It is more likely to occur with other anxiety symptoms.
- It tends to last for less than 10 minutes.
Again, having chest pain that abides by these suggestions does not rule out any cardiac or pulmonary causes. Also, women, diabetics, and the elderly often present with chest pain that is atypical of traditional cardiac chest tightness. So, if you belong to one of these groups and have new-onset chest pressure and/or tightness, it is best to see a physician first.
Anxiety attacks have a peak time, and that tends to be when the chest pressure is at its worst. Cardiac chest pressure, on the other hand, is more likely to last longer than 15 minutes, radiate, not be relieved with the resolution of anxiety, and be associated with shortness of breath etc.
My Experience With Chest Tightness And Asthma
I have never worn a corset, however, that is what I imagine happening in my chest when I experience chest tightness. I describe it as a corset to others because it feels like a physical barrier, holding my chest in as I try to inflate my lungs. As if I were being hugged too tightly as I try to inhale. Often, the constriction tightens with each attempted breath, spurring a counter-productive panic.
I dont always experience this symptom with my asthma, its a secondary symptom, mostly. When I do experience it, its usually accompanied by stress or anxiety, as an exacerbation to my initial flare. Im thankful for this, because, in all honestly, its terrifying.
My biggest fears to this day are drowning and suffocating, the feeling of not being able to breathe stemming directly from the tightness of my chest during an asthma attack. I like to understand my fears, I find it helps me to rationalize and reduce anxiety. So, I dove into a bit of research and this is what I found.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Dyspnea
You may have several accompanying symptoms with dyspnea. These additional symptoms can help you and your doctor diagnose its underlying cause. If you experience a cough, the dyspnea may be caused by a condition in your lungs. If you feel the symptom as chest pains, the doctor may test for heart conditions. Your doctor may discover symptoms outside of the heart and lungs that cause the dyspnea as well.
Symptoms that occur alongside dyspnea include:
- heart palpitations
Dyspnea can usually be treated by identifying and treating the condition that is causing it. During the time it takes for your doctor to diagnose the condition, you may receive interventions like oxygen and ventilation assistance to relive the symptom.
Treatments for dyspnea may include:
- removing the airway blockage
- reducing airway inflammation
- alleviating the bodys hunger for air
Your doctor may prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. These may include steroids for asthma, antibiotics for pneumonia, or another medication related to your underlying condition. You may also need supplemental oxygen. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to alleviate dyspnea.
There are additional treatments for dyspnea that go beyond medical interventions. Your doctor may recommend that you try breathing exercises. These can strengthen your lung functioning as well as help you combat dyspnea when it arises in your daily life.
How To Hang On: Coping During A Pandemic
A poll conducted in mid-April 2020 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 56% of adults reported that worry and stress because of the pandemic has had a negative effect on their mental health.
Respondents reported adverse effects such as trouble sleeping, poor appetite or overeating, frequent headaches or stomachaches, difficulty in controlling their temper, or increasing alcohol/drug use, and worsening chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. This is up from 45% reporting that stress over coronavirus had negatively affected their mental health in a KFF poll conducted in late March 2020.9
Right now everybody has increased anxiety, whether youre healthy as a horse, whether you have a psychiatric illness, or not, says Dr. McCann.
Telemedicine can help by connecting people with their doctors, and video meeting apps provide a means to keep up a social life as we remain in our homes. More on how to access telemedicine.
Dr. McCann also suggests exercising together with friends via video chat to support social interaction, while Dr. Bhatia recommends practicing mindfulness to ease stress.
Symptoms that are related to anxiety/panic can improve with mindfulness-based breathing exercises, says Dr. Bhatia.10 More on this technique from Dr. Bhatia.
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Is It Anxiety Or Something Else
Because so many things can cause chest tightness, it’s one of the trickiest symptoms to diagnose, says Dr. Cazabon.
One way to suspect it’s anxiety is to think about what’s going on in your life at the moment. “Is there any kind of clear stressor that’s happening that might explain why you’re more anxious?” says Dr. Gaynes. Trouble at work or in a relationship may help explain the symptom. So may feelings of fear.
Infection Of The Gallbladder
The gallbladder is an important organ of the digestive system, located below the liver on the right side of the abdomen. It can secrete bile, which can help the body digest food.
When your gallbladder becomes infected for various reasons, you may begin to feel pain and tightness in your chest area. Luckily, this Infection can be easily treated. However, many people have delayed diagnosis and treatment because of this reason.
If you can get treatment as soon as possible, you may need some medicine, but surgery may be the best option if it is already serious.
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What Should I Do When Chest Pain Strikes
If you feel badly enough to wonder if youre having a heart attack, you should go to the emergency room.
Thats because there are no single defining characteristics that will tell you if youre having a heart attack, says, Gary Weeks, M.D., chief of cardiology at the Heart Institute at UW Medical Center – Northwest.
Ways To Reduce Chest Pressure
When you are experiencing chest pressure and/or tightness, the key is to try to figure out the potential causes. Once you deem anxiety to be the cause of the symptom, the next goal is to stop it. See the following examples:
- Hyperventilation: Try to get your breathing under control by taking slower, deeper breaths and not trying to over-breathe or breathe too fast. When youre experiencing hyperventilation, you may feel as though youre not getting enough air, but hyperventilation occurs when you have expelled more CO2 than you make. So breathing more slowly helps to rebuild those CO2 levels.
- Bloating/Heartburn: If you can potentially reduce/prevent any gas, do so. You may also want to consider taking an antacid or drinking water, which may help with bloating or heartburn. Heartburn can be improved by eating more slowly, decreasing the amounts of spicy foods you consume, and staying upright for at least 30 minutes after eating. Also, avoid heartburn-inducing foods like peppermint, chocolate, coffee or caffeinated beverages, tomatoes, alcohol, and citrus fruits
- Muscle Strain: Be mindful of lifting or carrying items that are too heavy. Make sure to stretch and warm up your muscles before doing any strenuous activities.
These are only temporary fixes. Remember that your chest pressure and/or tightness is often related to some type of anxiety issue or anxiety disorder. That means that the only way to prevent the chest pressure from returning is to learn to manage your anxiety.
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Self Hypnosis Meditation To Stop Anxiety
ultimate way to break the cycle of anxiety
With this self-hypnosis meditation audio, your brain receives a clear signal that you are safe. if you practice this deep relaxation meditation on a daily basis, your brain gets a chance to realize you are not in danger and is open to re-program new thoughts and ways of behaving.
All this happens without any effort on your side. All you have to do is listen.
You can listen on your computer or device or via the free app which you can access anytime.
Getting Support And Treatment For Panic Attacks
Panic attacks can be incredibly frightening and cause you to worry about if and when another will happen again, causing a vicious cycle.
At Priory, we can help you to learn strategies so that you are able to better manage your panic attacks and reduce the likelihood of them happening in the future.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is an evidence based treatment available at Priory, where you learn how to identify and reframe your panic attack triggers and anxiety-inducing thought patterns.
Mindfulness sessions are also useful for learning how to identify and move past unpleasant thoughts and sensations without allowing panic to take over. During sessions at Priory, you can also receive relaxation training to understand deep breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation.
Exposure treatment may also be used after sessions in relaxation, cognitive reframing and mindfulness. During this time, you have the opportunity to practise the strategies you have learnt, and recognise that you can cope in challenging scenarios.
Certain medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , or other medications, may be recommended or prescribed if necessary to further support in the management of your panic attacks.
If you think you are having a medical emergency, please seek immediate support.
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Bone Muscle Or Nerve Problems
Sometimes chest pain may result from overuse or an injury to the chest area from a fall or accident. Viruses can also cause pain in the chest area. Other causes of chest pain include:
Rib problems. Pain from a broken rib may worsen with deep breathing or coughing. It is often confined to one area and may feel sore when you press on it. The area where the ribs join the breastbone may also become inflamed.
Muscle strain. Even really hard coughing can injure or inflame the muscles and tendons between the ribs and cause chest pain. The pain tends to persist and it worsens with activity.
Shingles. Caused by the varicella zoster virus, shingles may prompt a sharp, band-like pain before a telltale rash appears several days later.
Chest Tightness Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety chest tightness, including chest pressure, tension, fullness, pain, and shooting pains are often symptoms of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and others.
The higher the rating, the more likely it could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including chest tightness.
This article explains the relationship between anxiety and chest tightness.
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Only When You Lie Down At Night
Q: Which symptoms indicate that the chest pain is less serious?
A: Other clues of less serious causes of chest pain or tightness would be if you really experience the chest pain only when you lie down at night or if you have chest pain after eating large meals. Those symptoms would indicate that it’s reflux. If there’s a burning quality to the pain along with it, that would also indicate that it’s reflux.
Is Your Chest Pain Physical Or Mental
Chest pain sends over 7 million people to the emergency room every year. That makes sense since any kind of aching in your chest can be downright terrifying. But experiencing chest pain doesnt automatically mean youre in grave danger.
While cardiovascular events can certainly happen to young, otherwise healthy people, and heart disease is the leading killer of women in the United States, most chest-related emergency room visits arent life-threatening, according to a 2016 study published in JAMA that investigated records for over 42 million patient visits to the ER. These visits are often not even rooted in physical issues at all and are tied to mental health instead.
Chest pain is different for everyone, and theres no true way to diagnose it on your own . With that said, there are some potential ways to differentiate between physical and mental causes of chest pain in the moment.
The rib cage, the muscles between the ribs, and where they connect to the back and breastbone are actually pretty sensitive to trauma, Aaron Baggish, M.D., director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center in Boston, tells SELF. People hurt their all the time and dont realize it.
This sounds vague, but Dr. Baggish points out that many organs in the chest, like the heart, lungs, and esophagus share the same nerve supply. Anything in that area that gets inflamed or damaged can cause discomfort in a pretty large swath of your body, he says.
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Anxiety And The Development Of Heart Disease
Its my view and my personal clinical experience that anxiety disorders can play a major role in heart disease, says McCann. I believe that a really careful look at anxiety would reveal the ways it can severely impact heart disease, both as a contributing factor and as an obstacle in recovery.
A natural reaction to a sudden heart attack can be similar to post-traumatic stress disorder:
- Youre likely to be shocked by your near-death experience and extremely hesitant to do the things you used to do.
- You might constantly relive the life-threatening event, and avoid the activity or place associated with the heart attack.
- Recurring anxious thoughts may impede your ability to get regular sleep.
- Your thoughts about what lies ahead may be extremely negative and cause a drastically foreshortened outlook of the future.
Things That Happen During A Heart Attack
Q: What happens during a heart attack?
A: In a heart attack, those arteries get blocked for one reason or another, usually involving some kind of worsening of their risk factors. For example, someone might have a night where they smoke a pack of cigarettes when they usually only smoke a few cigarettes. They might experience a heart attack because all the chemicals floating around in their blood already increased the likelihood of their existing blockages into rupturing. Heres how an existing blockage ruptures. A buildup of cholesterol, fat, and inflammatory cells accumulates underneath a thin layer of protein. When this thin layer of protein is perturbed in some way, it ruptures and all the stuff beneath it are exposed. There are these factors called clotting factors in the blood that are responsible for causing clots to happen when they see something “foreign” . They perceive those streaks of fat, deposits of cholesterol and inflammatory cells as foreign and create a clot – kind of like the clot you get when you get a papercut air is a foreign material to your blood so your blood will start to clot so you dont bleed out to death. Thats what happens inside of your coronary artery when that cap ruptures and the blood is exposed to all the stuff thats harbored inside.
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