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Reasons For Chest Pains – What You Should Know
Chest pains can be really scary, especially if you’re not sure what they mean. Sometimes the cause of chest pain can be something as minor as a sore throat or heartburn. Other times it might indicate a serious and even life-threatening problem.
We’ll go over the most common reasons for chest pains that people over 50 might experience, so you have a better idea of what to expect and whether there’s anything worth getting checked out by your doctor.
It’s important to remember that for some people, chest pain can be a symptom of a serious illness (cancer, heart attack, stroke), and you should feel comfortable going to the doctor if it doesn’t go away after half an hour or so.
There are three main reasons for chest pains:
• Your heart is beating too fast (tachycardia) or too slowly (bradycardia). Your heart rate can change when there’s a lot of stress in your body. For example, on hot days it can speed up. Certain medications can also increase the heart rate.
• You have a problem with the muscles or valves in your heart. You can have heart valve problems or muscle problems that affect how the blood flow through your heart. There are also congenital problems with the muscles or valves, like congenital hypertrophy.
• Your arteries are clogged (atherosclerosis) or an embolism (blood clot) has blocked an artery in your chest that leads to your lungs. Because of these blockages, blood can’t get to the heart as quickly as it should when you’re under stress. This is called angina pectoris because it’s usually felt by people when they’re doing something involving their chests (like lifting a heavy object).
If you have chest pains, it’s important to know that different people describe them differently. For example, a 65-year-old man with chest pains who doesn’t smoke or drink might describe a feeling of pressure in his chest. A 65-year-old woman with the same problem might feel like something is pressing into her chest. These feelings are often called angina pectoris.
Here are the most common reasons for aches or pain in your chest:
1. You’re anxious about something going on in your life (like an upcoming surgery, loss of a loved one, or divorce). The chest pain comes from the stress of dealing with this difficult situation.
2. You’re faking it because you’re in too much pain to do something you have to do (like go to work or cook dinner). The chest pain comes from trying to find a way out of doing something you don’t want to do.
3. You’re really stressed about something and you haven’t taken your medication for high blood pressure, diabetes, or another illness that can cause chest pains (like heart disease, heart attack, angina, or atherosclerosis). The chest pain can be caused by the buildup of pressure as a result of not taking the medication regularly.
4. You have an infection in your lungs, like pneumonia. You might have an infection in your lungs if you’ve been around someone with a cold or flu.
5. You just had a full-on panic attack, which can be really scary because it feels like your heart is beating so fast and so hard that it’s going to jump out of your chest. Breathing slowly and deeply can help you calm down enough to feel better.
6. Your lungs are congested with mucus or fluid. Congestion in the lungs can happen when you have a cold, allergies, or infection and it’s caused by mucus or fluid that builds up in the airways of the lungs. This can make breathing difficult, which leads to chest pain.
7. Your heart is really hurting, like on the rare occasions where you have a heart attack.
8. You have pneumonia and your lungs hurt when you breathe in and out. Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs where bacteria or viruses enter the lung tissue and cause inflammation. The inflammation causes fluid to leak into the air sacs of the lung, making it harder to breathe as a result of feeling like there’s not enough oxygen getting into your bloodstream (it’s called secondary respiratory failure). This often causes chest pain when taking a breath or coughing because it hurts your lungs so much.
9. A blood clot has formed in your heart or artery that leads to your lungs. This condition is called a pulmonary embolism, or PE. A short time after you start feeling chest pain, you might start to cough up blood, which looks like it’s coming from the place where your heart is located (ventricle).
Because of this, PE is sometimes called a “widow-maker” because it can be fatal if not treated quickly enough by a medical professional. The pain in your chest that radiates down into your arms and legs usually goes away within 15 minutes to an hour as long as you don’t have another symptom (like severe dizziness or weakness of the leg muscles). If you have chest pain for more than an hour and the pain doesn’t go away, talk to your doctor because it could be a PE.
10. You have asthma or some other lung disease. Some of the diseases that can cause chest pain are asthma (which many people don’t realize is actually a lung disease), pneumonia, emphysema, bronchitis, or chronic bronchitis.
11. You have a cold or virus and are fighting off the flu-like illness and feel like you’re peaking in your lungs with fever (this can happen when someone has a mild case of influenza).
12. You have an esophageal problem (like a hiatal hernia). A hiatal hernia happens when part of your stomach pushes up into your chest, creating a little area of acid reflux or “heartburn.” It’s not dangerous, but it can cause some really uncomfortable pain in the center of the chest or between the breastbone and upper abdomen. If you have heart disease, you might also get a sharp pain over the heart that spreads out to the left arm.
13. You’re too stressed out and your body is having trouble keeping up with all of the emotional stress you’ve been through lately.
Reasons For Chest Pains – Final Thoughts
As you can see, anxiety is a big reason for chest pains. If you are having constant pain a trip to the doctor’s or the ER is something you should consider. It is always best to ere on the side of caution.