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Chest pain is one of the most common reasons people call 911 for emergency medical help and go to the emergency room. Having chest pains can be very frightening. Most of us think that any chest pain means that someone is having a heart attack. In fact, chest pain can happen for many different reasons.
Chest pain should never be taken lightly, that's why the WakeMed system features two accredited Chest Pain Centers. One at Raleigh Campus and one at Cary Hospital.
Chest pain has many possible causes, all of which deserve medical attention. The causes of chest pain fall into two major categories, cardiac and non-cardiac causes.
Fatty deposits can build up in the arteries that carry blood to your heart, narrowing them and restricting blood flow to your heart. Angina is chest pain caused by a temporary loss of blood to the heart muscle. It can be brought on with exercise, emotion, eating, especially heavy meals or exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures. It usually goes away within minutes after stopping the stressful activity, and there is no damage to the heart muscle.
A heart attack may seem to happen suddenly, but it is usually the result of a slow build-up of fat and cholesterol that narrows the coronary arteries. A blood clot can form in the narrowed artery, keeping blood from getting to the heart muscle. Without a blood supply, the heart muscle begins to die causing pain, pressure, fullness, tightness or burning in the chest. The pain may radiate to the back, shoulders, neck and arms or the shoulders, arms or wrists may feel numb.
Other symptoms include:
Women have these symptoms, but also may experience flulike symptoms and feelings of anxiety.
A coronary artery spasm temporarily closes the blood flow to the heart. Spasm of the coronary arteries may occur spontaneously or be triggered by a stimulant such as nicotine, caffeine or chemicals.
A valve in your heart (the mitral valve) does not open and close smoothly.
Other causes of chest pain include inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart, called pericarditis and problems with the heart valves.
Other reasons for chest pain include the following:
Two Certified Chest Pain Centers at WakeMed Raleigh Campus & WakeMed Cary Hospital
If chest pain worsens, lasts more than five minutes - especially when accompanied by weakness, feeling faint, shortness of breath, sick on stomach and sweating - call 911. You could be having a heart attack. Speedy treatment often means not only the difference between life and death, but also between disability and a return to an active lifestyle after a heart attack.
Do not drive yourself to emergency room. Call 911 for help immediately if you feel any of the following:
Be prepared for an emergency. Learn to save a life by learning hands only CPR.
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