Where is your heart located? Many people ask the exact location of the heart. Is it on the left side, middle, or right side of the chest? The heart is not located either in the center of their chest nor exactly on the left side of the chest. Your heart lies between the left and right lungs, behind your breastbone, and is slightly towards the left.
Place your right palm in the middle of your chest. Move your hand a bit to the left, and that’s the exact location of your heart. With a size of your fist, it is located in front of the spine and between your lungs. Your heart is secured inside the chest by the rib cage.
You may feel sudden pressure or pain in the exact location of your heart. You may also experience pain in other areas near the heart. The pain in your heart’s location does not necessarily mean that you are already experiencing a heart attack. However, keep in mind that even if the pain is not exactly in your heart, that does not mean that it is not a heart attack. Do not depend solely on the particular location of the heart.
Heart Attack or Something Else? Several Chest Pains Related to Heart
A heart is a muscular organ located in between the lungs in humans. It pumps the blood through the vessels of blood to the circulatory system. The blood pumped to the circulatory system supplies the body with nutrients and oxygen while removing carbon dioxide and other waste materials.
Where is your heart located? One of the reasons why individuals ask this is because they experience chest pain. The first thing that comes to mind when the chest hurts is a heart attack. But there are also other factors that lead to pain in the chest area. You have probably experienced a temporary sensation that alleviates after a few seconds or minutes. The pain may last for hours or days.
A person may experience chest pain due to muscle pull, gas, or anxiety. While many people have chest pains at many points in their lives, most of the causes are not life-threatening. However, the pain in the chest area can also be one of the symptoms of something serious.
It can be a condition associated with the other organs of the body or a sign of a heart problem. Whether you experience it once or many times, you should not ignore the pain not only in the chest area but also in other parts of the body.
Chest Pain Associated With Heart Conditions
1. Heart Attack
A heart attack is also known as myocardial infarction. According to the Mayo Clinic, this condition usually occurs when the flow of blood to the heart’s chambers is blocked by the plaque in the coronary arteries. The plaque is usually made of cholesterol, fat and other substances in the blood.
A heart attack will damage the heart muscle and make the heart unable to transport blood to the body properly. The pain caused by a heart attack feels like a tight ache, squeezing or fullness in the left or center of the chest. It may last for a few minutes.
The symptoms of heart disease are usually different between men and women. Men tend to experience the pain in their left arm, while women tend to have pain in both arms, neck, even anywhere in the chest.
Other symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Stomach pain that extends into the abdominal area, which may feel like heartburn.
- Pain that spreads to the arms, neck, shoulders, jaw, teeth and belly button.
- Shortness of breath and lightheadedness.
- Nausea, vomiting, sweating and rapid or irregular heartbeats.
- Weakness, anxiety or panic for no reason.
- Mild to severe discomfort that comes and go.
A heart attack is fatal. If you suspect that you or someone is having a heart attack, seek medical attention right away.
Another cause of chest pain is angina. According to the American Heart Association, angina is caused by reduced oxygen-rich blood flow to the muscles of the heart.
This condition is also a symptom of narrow or blocked coronary arteries, which is also called ischemia. In addition, coronary microvascular disease (MVD) can also affect coronary arteries and lead to Angina in people especially for women.
Angina is usually hard to differentiate from other types of chest pain. However, you can also distinguish them based on some symptoms. The pain caused by angina can be described as squeezing, tightness, pressure, or pain in the chest.
The other symptoms of angina include:
- Discomfort or pain in the chest
- Pain may radiate to your arms, jaw, neck, back or shoulder
- Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and fatigue
- Sweating and shortness of breath
There are many types of angina include stable angina pectoris and unstable angina pectoris. The pain from stable angina will aggravate during your physical exertion and will lessen or disappear after rest. For this condition, you can take a prescription medicine like nitroglycerine to treat it.
Unstable angina is that the symptoms will not disappear or last longer than 30 minutes even if you when you are resting. This is a medical emergency, as it may increase the risk of a heart attack. You need to see your doctor immediately.
3. Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease, also called coronary heart disease is a common cause of chest pain or angina. It occurs when the major blood vessels that supply oxygen, blood and nutrients to the heart become diseased or damaged.
Cholesterol-containing deposits in the arteries are the most common reason for coronary artery disease. Other common causes of coronary artery disease are smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and diabetes. These factors may lead to the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries.
The plaque buildup will narrow your coronary arteries and decrease the blood flow to your heart muscle. This could cause heart muscle hypoxia. In some severe cases, plaque may rupture and block the blood supply to the heart, this will cause a heart attack or sudden cardiac death. If the blood clot blocks the blood flow to the brain, an ischemic stroke may happen.
This serious condition often develops for years, and a person may not notice the health issue until there is already a big blockage or heart attack. The signs and symptoms may include:
- Pressure or tightness in the chest.
- Pain in the middle or left side of the chest.
- Sharp or fleeting pain in the neck, jaw, arm or back.
- The pain usually disappears within minutes after you relieve the stress.
- Shortness of breath, sweating, and extreme fatigue.
- Crushing pressure in your chest, shoulder or arm.
- Angina or Heart attack.
A healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk factors for coronary artery disease. If you have the symptoms of a heart attack, see your doctor immediately.
Myocarditis is the inflammation of the myocardium (heart muscle). Even the healthy ones can get myocarditis, which is caused by a viral infection. When the virus enters the body, the body produces cells to combat it.
If the disease-fighting cells made their way to your heart, it could cause heart-muscle inflammation. Most of the time, it does not show any symptoms. If you develop symptoms of myocarditis, they may include:
- Stabbing or sharp chest pain that spreads to shoulders and neck
- Signs of infection (fever, headache, sore throat, diarrhea)
- Shortness of breath and fatigue
- Swollen joints, neck veins, or legs
- An abnormal heartbeat that may cause fainting
- Small amounts of urine
5. Mitral Valve Prolapse
The mitral valve assists the blood flow from one chamber of the heart (left atrium) to another (left ventricle). Mitral valve prolapse occurs when the mitral valve slips back into the left atrium.
This happens when the left ventricle, which is the main muscle of the heart, squeezes during every heartbeat. Some people do not develop any symptoms, which others may experience chest pain. Other symptoms include:
- Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Anxiety and panic
- Numbness and tingling sensation in feet and hands
- Swelling of the feet and legs
Pericarditis is the inflammation of the layers of the pericardium, which is a thin tissue sac surrounding the heart. The main causes of this disease include heart attack, radiation, infections, tumors, trauma, cancer, heart surgery, and autoimmune diseases.
The most common signs and symptoms of pericarditis may include chest pain, low-grade fever, and increased heart rate. Sometimes, pericarditis may also lead to pericardial effusion that is the fluid between the heart and the lining.
7. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
This is associated with the thickening of the muscles of the heart. This results in stiffening of the walls of the organ, which may hamper normal blood flow. Some symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy include chest pain, fatigue, fainting, palpitations and shortness of breath.
8. Congestive Heart Failure
This is a chronic condition caused by too weak pumping power of heart muscles. The heart cannot effectively pump blood through the body. This condition is a stage of heart failure. The common symptoms include leg swelling and shortness of breath.
Endocarditis, also called infective endocarditis, is the inflammation of the inner lining or valves of the heart. This condition is usually caused by a severe bacterial infection. This is a very rare disease among healthy people.
10. Pulmonary Embolism
Pulmonary embolism occurs when an artery in the lungs is blocked by the blood clot or other substance moved through the bloodstream. The common symptoms include sharp chest pain, coughing up blood and shortness of breath.
How to Know if Chest Pains is Serious?
Understanding Cardiac and Non-Cardiac Chest Pain. Here is the comparison between cardiac and other chest pain.
Cardiac Chest Pain
- Usually occurs in the morning
- Chest pain feels like squeezing, deep, burning, pressure, heaviness and radiates to the arms, back, and jaw.
- The pain may be caused by movements or exertion of the upper arms. It can also occur after heavy meals or extreme temperature.
- Chest pain may be resolved once the exertion is reduced.
- Avoiding exertion can alleviate pain. Make sure to seek medical help immediately.
Non-Cardiac Chest Pain
- Usually occurs in the evening
- Chest pain feels like a sharp and real pain, which can be located easily.
- The pain happens on its own. Heartburn may occur after meals.
- Chest pain usually comes and goes fast and may last for a few hours.
- Exercise, exertion or breathing exercises can alleviate the pain.
Is Heart Attack Painful?
Heart attacks may be painful, but that isn’t always the case. This may sound like a good thing, but you have to be careful. Here’s a variety of terms used to describe different qualities of ‘pain’ indicating a heart attack:
- Sharp pain – stabbing
- Burning sensation
- Gassy pain
- Feeling of indigestion
- Feeling of heaviness, squeezing, or tightness in the chest
Other Causes of Chest Pain
Some problems can make you experience chest pain.
1. Lung Problems
A person may also experience chest pain due to lung problems.
- Pleurisy – an irritation or inflammation of the lining of the lungs. This feels like a sharp pain when breathing, sneezing, or coughing. This is caused by an infection of the lower respiratory system caused by bacteria or virus.
- Pulmonary embolism – this occurs when the when a clump of material or blood clot gets stuck into an artery of the lungs.
- Pulmonary hypertension – a type of high blood pressure that affects the right side of the heart and the arteries in the lungs.
- Pneumothorax – also known as a collapsed lung, this occurs when the air leaks into the space between the lung and chest wall.
- Asthma – causing wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
- Pneumonia – lung infections may also cause chest pain and may come with chills, fever, and cough.
2. Gastrointestinal Problems
These are the gastrointestinal problems that can lead to chest pain.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease(GERD) – also known as acid reflux, this occurs when the contents of the stomach move back into your throat. It can cause a sour stomach and stomach pain after eating. You may also feel something stuck in your throat.
- Gallbladder problems – this occurs after eating fatty foods, which gives a sensation of fullness or pain on the upper right side of the abdomen or lower right area of the chest.
- Pancreatitis – a person may have pancreatitis when there is a pain in the lower chest, which is always worse when lying flat. It gets better when leaning forward.
- Esophageal rupture or perforation – a sudden chest pain following vomiting. The pain may also follow after a procedure that involves the esophagus.
- A Hiatal hernia – this occurs when the top of your stomach pushes into your lower chest after eating.
- Peptic ulcers – this is more common in people who drink, smoke, or take pain-killers. A vague recurring pain may be caused by the sores in the lining of the stomach.
- Heartburn – Heartburn happen when the digestive acid and swallowed food escape back up into the esophagus. It can cause discomfort, pain, irritation and burning pain in the chest. The pain can feel like the heart-related pain but it is often sharp and stabbing.
3. Nerve, Bone, or Muscle Problems
Chest pain may also occur due to a fall, accident, or viruses.
- Shingles – this is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. A person may experience sharp pain before rashes appear.
- Muscle strain – coughing hard can cause inflammation or injury to the tendons and muscles between the ribs. This can lead to chest pain.
- Rib problems – a rib fracture can worsen coughing or breathing.
A panic attack can also cause severe chest pains similar to a heart attack. This is because the panic attack can cause high blood pressure and heart muscle spasms. In addition, panic attacks can cause hyperventilate and give strain to the heart muscles.
Is it a heart attack or a panic attack? It is often difficult to distinguish between them. However, the panic attack usually has some special symptoms.
- Stabbing or sharp pain closer to the middle of the chest, that lasts for a short time.
- The heart attack is often accompanied by anxiety.
- If you press the area, the pain will worsen.
- The pain usually occurs in one specific area.
- Nausea, dizziness and increased heart rate.
The best way to reduce chest pain from a panic attack is with prevention. The less you experience a panic attack, the less risk you will experience chest pain.
If you are experiencing chest pain and panic attack, you can use deep breathing techniques to calm the nerves. Control your thoughts and take a deep breath for at least 15 seconds and you may see the chest pain disappear.
Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage between your upper ribs and breastbone, or sternum. This condition can cause sharp chest pains which can radiate to your abdomen or back. How to determine if it is cardiac pain? You can press on the cartilage in your ribcage to reproduce the pain.
The causes of costochondritis are usually unknown, but many experts believe it is related to arthritis, a viral or bacterial infection. It is relatively harmless and the pain will go away on its own after a period of time. If you suffer from a fever, swelling on your chest and trouble breathing, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.