What Is a Heart Attack?

Health, Home & Family
on February 17, 2012

Any chest pain is cause for concern and should be shared with your physician right away. However, not all chest pains are created equally. Oftentimes the symptoms of a heart attack and a panic attack are confusingly similar. Find out what a heart attack is and what a heart attack is not.

Panic attack definition. A panic attack is a sudden onset of fear and physical symptoms. This medical condition is something to be taken seriously and not dismissed as a mere case of nerves. Panic attacks can lead to physical problems and affect your quality of life. According to the Mayo Clinic, a panic attack can cause you to feel like you are having a heart attack or are going to die.

Panic attack symptoms. A panic attack can make your heart pound and feel like a heart problem. You might experience shortness of breath or trouble taking a full, deep breath. Nausea and flushing are also common signs of panic attacks. Additionally, you may experience a sense of doom, sweating, chills, hot flashes, abdominal cramps, chest pain, racing heart rate, dizziness, fainting, tightness in the throat or trouble swallowing, and hyperventilation. Always see your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms like these or fear you are having either a panic or heart attack. Don't take any chances — let the professionals sort out what the symptoms are saying about your health. The good news is that panic attacks are not fatal and respond very well to proper treatment.

Heart attack definition. A heart attack is what happens when a blood clot stops blood flow to the heart. This disruption of the normal flow of blood can lead to damage to the heart muscle itself. Heart attacks can be fatal. Call for emergency medical care immediately if you think you are experiencing a heart attack.

Heart attack symptoms. Intense chest pain that lasts longer than five or 10 minutes and is located in the center of the chest could be a sign of a real cardiac issue and emergency. With a heart attack, you may feel clammy. You may feel pressure on the chest or a feeling of fullness or tightness. Intermittent, tingly or crushing, searing pain that radiates down the left arm or even to the neck, shoulders and back may signify a heart-related problem. Lightheadedness and dizziness are also symptoms that can signify heart attack.

What symptoms may point away from heart-related causes? Since so many symptoms of a heart attack and a panic attack are similar, there are a few indicators that usually come from a non-heart related problem. According to the Mayo Clinic, chest pain that is less likely to be a heart attack or other heart problem includes:

  • Regurgitation of food
  • A sour taste in the mouth
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Pain or tenderness when you press on the chest
  • Pain that gets worse when you cough or take a deep breath
  • Pain that changes with body position