Heart pain or chest pain refers to pain that occurs in the region of the chest. It can be a symptom of many serious conditions and should always be considered as a medical emergency. Cardiac chest pain is known as angina pectoris. However, pain in the chest can also be caused by noncardiac-related causes such as lung issues, musculoskeletal, or gastrointestinal issues.
Chest pain can have different characteristics of pain and associated symptoms depending on the age, gender, and existing comorbidities of the affected individual.
Chest pain is a common issue with an estimated 6 to 8 million individuals presenting in the emergency department annually in the United States. About 50 to 70 percent of those with chest pain will be hospitalized or placed under observation.
Cause #1: Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) or ischemic heart disease (IHD) occurs when there is reduced blood flow to the heart muscle due to blockage in the blood vessels. The blockage is most commonly due to the build-up of plaque. CAD is the commonest cardiovascular disease and can be divided into myocardial infarction, stable angina, and unstable angina. Patients with CAD often experience chest pain that radiates to the arm, back, neck, jaw, and shoulder. It can also be mistaken as heartburn as the sensation is often similar.
Symptoms usually appear when there is stress or exertion and improves with rest. Other associated symptoms include breathlessness and abnormal heartbeat. The risk of CAD is higher among those with hypertension, diabetics, smokers, obese individuals, and those with a sedentary lifestyle.