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Is It a Heart Attack or Chest Pain?

February 19, 2024 Pegalis Law Group

Is It a Heart Attack or Chest Pain?

Are you experiencing a dull, burning ache in your chest that’s getting worse? How do you know if it’s a heart attack or chest pain caused by something else? Recognizing the difference could save your life. February is the American Heart Association’s Heart Month, a time to spread awareness about heart health and maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle. Every 40 seconds, an American has a heart attack. Nearly 12% of those heart attacks will be fatal. Knowing when to seek urgent care can mean the difference between life and death. Below, Pegalis Law Group, LLC discusses the symptoms of a heart attack and what to do if you suspect you’re having one so you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

What Are the Common Warning Signs of a Heart Attack?

Every year, millions of Americans experiencing chest pain visit their local hospital emergency rooms. Only about 20% of them end up being diagnosed with a heart attack. Chest pain is the most common warning sign of a heart attack in men and women of all ages. However, you could be having a heart attack without any chest pain. Heart attack symptoms can vary by person but generally include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort (pressure, squeezing, burning, or tightness)
  • Pain, discomfort, or numbness in the upper body (jaw, neck, arms, shoulders, or back)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling weak, lightheaded, or faint
  • Unusual fatigue or sweating (cold sweat)
  • Sudden nausea or vomiting
  • Heartburn, indigestion, or abdominal pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Anxiety

What to Do If You Suspect You’re Having a Heart Attack

Heart attack symptoms are often subtle and may mimic other conditions, ranging from panic attacks to pneumonia. Women are notorious for dismissing heart attack symptoms as being something less life-threatening, such as acid reflux or the flu. It’s better to err on the side of caution with chest pain and other sudden symptoms. Remember, you’re never too young to have a heart attack. Even if you’re physically fit, you could still have a heart attack, as they’re often the first symptom of heart disease.

If you or a loved one is experiencing one or more of the warning signs listed, stop whatever you’re doing, move to a safe place to rest, and call 911 or visit your nearest hospital ER immediately. Even if you’re not having a heart attack, you could be experiencing angina (reduced blood flow to your heart) or a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in your lungs), both of which can be life-threatening if ignored.

How Often Do Doctors Misdiagnose Heart Attacks?

Heart attacks require urgent specialized medical attention to prevent severe complications, including muscle scarring and death. Treatment is advised within an hour of the onset of heart attack symptoms to achieve the best outcome. Your doctor may ask you questions about your chest pain or discomfort, such as when it started, whether it’s been constant or intermittent, and if you’ve experienced it before, to diagnose your condition.

It’s estimated about 2% of heart attacks are misdiagnosed annually, with misdiagnosis being more common among women than men. Doctors incorrectly diagnose heart attacks due to atypical symptoms, misread lab results, or the failure to order necessary diagnostics and follow-up care. A missed or delayed diagnosis may worsen your medical condition. If you or a loved one has been misdiagnosed, consult a lawyer to determine your eligibility for filing a medical malpractice claim.

Providing Tips for Proactive Patients in NY & Beyond

As a New York-based personal injury and medical malpractice law firm with 50+ years of experience, Pegalis Law Group, LLC is devoted to educating the public about various healthcare-related topics, including cardiovascular diseases. Receive additional tips about being a proactive patient by visiting our website and following us on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn this year.