How To Tell A Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrhythmia And A Panic Attack Apart
When it comes to heart problems, there are other health issues that can mimic a heart attack. Two are as painful as a heart attack itself. These are a panic attack and an acute cardiac arrhythmia. As the patient experiencing any one of these three, it may be impossible to tell them apart. However, a doctor can tell them apart, as the following shows.
Seeing as a heart attack is a life or death situation, most people are inclined to think that when they are short of breath and having crushing pain in their chests, it is a heart attack. While this is fairly typical of most heart attack patients, these symptoms would be the final ones to appear before a major heart attack. Most heart attacks come with warning signs, such as pain in the left arm, back, shoulders and/or upper abdomen. Fevers may be present, as are heart palpitations. Your body would give you ample warning before the final, and potentially lethal, symptoms arrive.
A cardiac arrhythmia, especially acute cases involving ventricular contractions in the heart, can cause enough pain to make you think you are having a heart attack. However, acute cardiac arrhythmias rarely come with warning signs, whereas heart attacks have plenty of warning signs. You could be perfectly fine one moment, and clutching your chest the next, trying to make the pain go away.
Just as the pain stops, and you think you are fine, it starts up again. People with this condition head into an E.R. thinking that they have just experienced several small heart attacks in a row, when in fact, it was just their hearts trying to make up for lost beats or trying to slow down from beating too fast. An EKG and an ultrasound can both detect arrhythmias and rule out heart attacks.
In recent years, panic attacks are on the rise. High stress levels from demanding jobs, a lack of sleep, improper diets and lack of exercise make it impossible for people to be calm. As a result, there is always a proverbial straw that breaks your back, and that is when you experience a panic attack. You may have the same crushing pain and shortness of breath as a heart attack, but you will feel anxious long before it happens.
As your anxiety rises, so does your adrenaline and your body's "flight or fight" response. When you refuse to flee to reduce the rising anxiety and fear, your body induces symptoms that will cause you to seek out a quiet, peaceful spot. Most people who experience panic attacks for the first time find that by the time they come into the emergency room, some of their symptoms begin to disappear. By the time they have received a dose of anti-anxiety medicine, they do not feel pain or shortness of breath at all.
Contact a doctor, such as at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, for more help.