• Cardiovascular

    Mayo Clinic Minute: When chest discomfort becomes something to worry about

Chest discomfort and pain account for more than 6.5 million emergency department visits in the U.S. each year. Discomfort can be the first sign of a serious heart event or a symptom of other medical conditions.

Dr. Regis Fernandes, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, says people should seek medical care at the first sign of chest pain.

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Chest pain and discomfort has many possible causes — whether related to the heart, lungs, a panic attack or other reasons that can produce different sensations.

"For some people, it can also be felt in other areas than the heart, like the shoulder, the arm, on the back or the base of the neck," says Dr. Fernandes.

Acute chest pain starts suddenly and last several minutes — increasing in intensity. This can be a representation of a heart attack. There's also chronic chest discomfort caused by blocked arteries typically felt when people exert themselves.

"When you increase the workload that the heart has to do, you increase the demand for blood flow. And because the blood flow is blocked, patients will feel like a discomfort," says Dr. Fernandes.

When you experience new or unexplained chest pain, seek medical attention.

"A health care professional will be able to get a good history, which is very important, on the details of your chest discomfort and a focused physical examination to be able to determine if your chest discomfort is more heart-related or not," says Dr. Fernandes.


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