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In the event of a coronary blockage, the cells forming the heart muscle suffer a reduced oxygen and nutrient supply, which manifests as chest pain.
Chest pain. The pain that usually characterises Ischaemic Heart Disease is described as tightness in the chest which can occasionally radiate to the base of the neck, the jaw, arms (normally the left arm) or back. It is sometimes accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness, cold sweats, nausea and vomiting, palpitations or even loss of consciousness.
It should be taken into account that pain arising from Ischaemic Heart Disease does not always present such typical characteristics, particularly in as women, the elderly and patients with diabetes. In some cases Ischaemic Heart Disease can present with pain in the upper abdomen, whereas on other occasions shortness of breath is the only symptom.
If you notice any discomfort in your chest, even if it is not one of the typical symptoms described above, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible.
Shortness of breath (dyspnoea).The heart becomes weaker and can no longer pump blood towards the rest of the body. Therefore blood stagnates in the lungs, which fill with fluid, and it becomes harder to breathe. This is one of the most significant complications because it indicates that the infarction (or angina) is severe.
Palpitations. Patients notice a strong, or offbeat, heartbeat in their chest which could be secondary to an arrhythmia. There are many types of palpitation of varying severity, but they all tend to produce a rapid pulse and a fluttering or thumping feeling in the chest
Sweating, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may all appear together or individually. In reality they are caused by the body’s response, specifically that of the nervous system, to the heart muscle ischaemia which represents a serious injury.
Loss of consciousness. In the context of an infarction a loss of consciousness is due to problems with the heart’s electrical conduction or the presence of severe arrhythmias, because it loses all capacity to pump blood (cardiac arrest).
When to go to emergency services?
You should always visit your doctor whenever you notice any pain in the chest as it is essential to identify the presence of a heart attack as soon as possible. If a coronary artery is blocked, then the cells which form the heart are dying. Therefore, time is of the essence; the artery needs to be unblocked at the earliest opportunity in an attempt to save as many cardiac cells as possible.
If you experience chest pain, then you should call 112 emergency services immediately and request assistance. Do not take public or personal transport; the quickest form of receiving medical attention is to wait for the ambulance to arrive. You must not drive because you would be placing yourself and other drivers and pedestrians at risk.
Some people notice tingling or mild discomfort in the chest that varies when they move or change their position. In general these symptoms are not connected to heart disease, but nevertheless, whenever there is doubt, you must visit your doctor.
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Substantiated information by:
Manel Sabaté TenasCardiologistCardiology Department
Marta Farrero TorresCardiologistCardiology Department
Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018
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