Chest pain, a fluttering heart, and difficulty to breathe; these symptoms are often linked to a heart attack and it is definitely terrifying for a person experiencing them. So, when a person suffers from palpitations, anxiety, breathlessness and indigestion, these signs are often misread to be symptoms of a heart attack. However, these symptoms may not necessarily be tied to a heart attack; rather it could be signs leading to a panic attack. Naturally people become very fearful of these symptoms as a heart attack is life threatening. But we can have a little ease knowing that panic attacks do not lead to death. While the symptoms may be similar, they are not the same.
Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack. Chest pains can be the result of intense cardio exercise, and this may cause a heart attack. When a heart attack happens, a person will experience excruciating chest pain, and the pain is concentrated on the centre of the chest. The pain is extremely overwhelming, as if something terribly heavy is dropped on a person’s chest over the heart. The pain is continuous and can be felt on the back and neck. The pain can go on for almost 15 minutes, and often times it also spreads to the left arm. This pain is also generally accompanied by nausea, and sufferers tend to throw up.
It is true that chest pain also occurs during a panic attack. However, chest pain that is experienced as a result of anxiety disorders is different in nature compared to that of a heart attack. During a panic attack, a person tends to feel a sharp pain over the heart, and this pain is not continuous. Instead, it comes and goes for a few minutes, usually for not more than 3 minutes. Hyperventilation, or an offset in breathing, is usually the culprit that provokes a panic attack. This means that the weight of the problem does not lie with the heart. In other words, the problem is not coronary. Rather it is psychological. The attack the person is experiencing is not caused by the heart, but the mind – so the heart finds itself in a situation of flight or fight response.
A panic attack and a heart attack are definitely different. A panic attack will not cause a heart attack. Worse come to worse, a person will faint before anything serious happens. Naturally, people who have a panic attack worry whether it will have a negative impact on their heart in time to come. It is best for people to take precautionary measures and pay attention to the symptoms of chest pain. If the chest pain persists after a few minutes, if it goes and returns, or if the pain is focused on the center of the chest even after 10 minutes, then it is best to visit the doctor. If chest pain is accompanied by vomiting, then extra concern should be taken and medical help should be sought immediately.
To be extra sure whether or not the chest pain experienced is caused by heart problems, there are a number of things individuals can do. Heart problems can be diagnosed with electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures the heart’s electrical activity. Another way is through the Multi-Function Cardio Gram (MCG), which is a little more advanced than ECG to trace the heart. Other methods such as blood tests, stress tests, angiography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can also be utilized for a more thorough diagnosis for heart problems.
Panic attacks, on the other hand, are caused by anxiety and stress. Anxiety is bad for a person’s overall well being. So, anyone experiencing panic attacks should start practicing a healthy lifestyle of eating and sleeping well, besides exercising regularly. Panic disorders can be overcome through healthy living, therapy, breathing exercises and also use of medications. While a panic attack does not lead to death or heart attack, people should pay more attention to their health and overall well being of both the mind and body.