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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.
Chest pain should never be taken lightly.
That's why the WakeMed system features two accredited Chest Pain Centers – one at the Raleigh Campus and one at Cary Hospital.
If chest pain worsens, lasts more than five minutes—especially when accompanied by weakness, feeling faint, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and/or sweating—you could be having a heart attack.
Dial 911 immediately—do not drive yourself to the emergency room—if you feel any of the following:
Speedy treatment often means the difference between life and death, as well as between disability and a return to an active lifestyle after a heart attack.
Chest pain has many possible causes, all of which deserve medical attention. Chest pain can result from both heart-related (cardiac) and non-heart-related (non-cardiac) issues.
Fatty deposits can build up in the arteries that carry blood to your heart, narrowing them and restricting blood flow. Angina is chest pain caused by a temporary loss of blood to the heart muscle. It can be brought on by exercise, emotion, eating—especially heavy meals—and exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures. Angina usually goes away within minutes after stopping the stressful activity, and it does not damage the heart muscle.
A heart attack may seem to happen suddenly, but it’s usually the result of a slow buildup 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 and/or feelings of 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 of a heart attack can include:
While both men and women may have any these symptoms, women also may experience more subtle flu-like symptoms, feelings of anxiety or nervousness, atypical chest pain and swelling in the ankles or legs.
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.
Mitral valve prolapse occurs when the heart’s mitral valve does not open and close smoothly.
Other cardiac causes of chest pain include inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis) and problems with other heart valves.
Non-cardiac causes of chest pain include:
Cardiac imaging studies can be used to determine if chest pain is caused by conditions such as heart disease, cardiac aneurysms (weak, bulging spots in arteries) or issues with cardiac valves or other heart structures. These imaging studies may include:
The treatment for chest pain depends on its cause. Chest pain caused by muscle strain or injury, for example, may be treated with an analgesic medication, while chest pain caused by pneumonia or bronchitis may be treated with an antibiotic.
If chest pain is determined to be related to a cardiovascular concern, the appropriate treatment depends upon the exact nature of the issue. Medications used to treat heart conditions include beta blockers, blood thinners and statins. There are also a variety of heart procedures and surgeries used to treat the underlying causes of cardiac-related chest pain.
If chest pain is found to be caused by a cardiovascular issue, eating a heart-healthy diet and regular physical activity can help keep the heart in optimal shape.
Two Certified Chest Pain Centers at WakeMed Raleigh Campus & WakeMed Cary Hospital
If you or someone you know needs to be evaluated for chest pain, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of WakeMed’s experienced cardiologists.
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Be prepared for an emergency. Learn to save a life by learning hands only CPR.
3000 New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27610