Know Where Your Heart Is and How to Identify Heart Pain

Heart muscle is the strongest tissue in your body. It is responsible for pumping the oxygenated blood (obtained from lungs) to the rest of the body via comprehensive circulatory system. Why is it important to know heart location? For starters, it helps in categorizing the cardiac symptoms for the urgency of medical attention such as chest pain. Most people are fearful and anxious as they believe that chest pain is only associated with heart problem or ischemic injury of cardiac muscles. The truth is that not all the chest pains have association with the heart. Nonetheless, it is not something to be ignored.

Where Is Your Heart Located?

It might be a shocker for some of you, but hearts isn’t really located on the left side of your chest. It lies between the right and left lungs, in the middle of the chest and slightly towards the left of the breastbone.

The heart is enclosed in the pericardium which is a double layer. This pericardium is attached to the diaphragm, spinal column and other parts via strong ligaments. Inside, heart is hollow and divided into 4 chambers: the upper 2 chambers are called left and right atria whereas the lower ones are called the left and right ventricles. A muscle wall (also known as interventricular septum) divides the left and right ventricles and atria. Left ventricle is the strongest chamber of the human heart. In rare cases, the heart is located towards the right side. This condition is called dextrocardia and is congenital in nature.

When Are Chest Pain Heart Related?

You already have a quick grasp on “where is your heart located?”, but the location of the pain can’t correctly tell if the pain is heart related. Here we are going to discuss the symptoms of several chest pains which are associated with heart.

1. Heart Attack

Heart attack results from the occluded blood vessels that carry blood to the heart. The patient may experience the following signs:

  • Fullness or squeezing sensation in the chest. It may come and go or may last for several minutes, steadily.
  • The chest pain radiates to jaw, neck and arms.
  • You may experience additional symptoms like difficulty in breathing, vomiting and nausea.

According to the Association of American Family Physician, the pain radiating towards the arms is an essential indicator of an impending or acute heart attack. On the other hand, sharp pain is usually not the cause behind the heart attack.

2. Angina

When the blood supply does not meet the demand of the heart muscles, it leads to angina. The pain in angina is more or less similar to that experienced in a heart attack. The pain may aggravate during physical exertion and may disappear upon resting. This is the characteristic feature of stable angina for which you will need a prescription medicine like nitroglycerine. However experiencing pain even when you are resting can mean that you have unstable angina that may increase the risk of heart attack by several folds.

3. Comparison Between Cardiac and Non-Cardiac Chest Pain

Characteristics

Cardiac Chest Pain

Other Chest Pain

The time when pain occurs

Morning

Evening

What does the pain feel like?

Deep, squeezing, burning, constriction, heaviness, pressure and usually radiates to back, arms and jaw

Local, sharp and real pain. Usually limited to one point and can easily be pointed to.

What causes the pain?

Main trigger may be exertion or movements of upper arms. Exertion during extreme temperature or heavy meals may also cause pain.

Mostly happens on its own and heartburn may occur after eating the meals.

How long does it last?

Once the exertion is reduced, the pain resolves spontaneously.

It comes and goes quickly at times may last for several hours.

How to alleviate the pain?

Avoid exertion.Angina pain worsens while laying back. Make sure you seek immediate medical help

Pain maybe alleviated by exertion, exercise or breathing exercise. Pain maybe relieved by antacids, aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen. Wet or dry heat may help as well.

Caution

1. At times, no chest pain is experienced when a person is having a heart attack. In such cases, the red flags may be inexplicable nausea, sweating, lightheadedness and vomiting. It’s essential to seek medical help in case you can’t figure out how to alleviate these symptoms. 

2. If the chest pain or discomfort lasts for longer than 15 minutes or it fails to resolve by glyceryl trinitrate (nitrogycerin/GTN) or rest, you must seek professional medical help as soon as possible.

Other Causes of Chest Pain

Now that you got the answer of of “where is your heart located” and have a brief idea of the situations where chest pain is heart related, you may want to learn about the conditions in which chest pain is not heart related. The following are some of them.

1. Digestive Disorder

Chest pain may occur due to following digestive disorders:

  • Heartburn

It’s a burning, painful sensation behind the breastbone which occurs due to backwash of stomach acid into the esophagus.

  • Swallowing Disorders

Esophageal disorders can make swallowing painful or difficult.

  • Pancreatic or Gallbladder Issues

Inflammation of pancreas or gallbladder or presence of gallstones can trigger abdominal pain which may radiate to the chest.

2. Muscle and Bone Problems

Some chest pains result from the structural problems in the chest wall such as:

  • Costochondritis

It is characterized by the inflammation and pain in the cartilage (the connective tissue connecting the breastbone and the ribs).

  • Sore Muscles

Some chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia can trigger persistent muscle associated chest pain.

  • Injured Ribs

This is characterized by chest pain due to a broken or a bruised rib.

3. Lungs Disorders

Chest pain may result from following lung disorders:

  • Pulmonary Embolism

It happens when the disturbance in the blood flow is caused by lodged blood clot in the pulmonary artery.

  • Pleurisy

Inflammation of the membrane that covers the lungs may lead to chest pain upon cough or even deep breathing.

  • Collapsed Lung

This condition results from the leakage of air into the spaces between ribs and lungs. The associated chest pain may be sudden and last for hours.

  • Pulmonary Hypertension

High pressure of blood in pulmonary arteries can lead to chest pain.

4. Other Causes

Chest pain may also result from:

  • Panic Attack

Panic attack may bring about intense periods of fear, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, profuse sweating, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and a fear of dying.

  • Shingles

When the chickenpox virus becomes reactivated, it often triggers pain and produces a band of blisters from the back to the chest wall.

Note

According to the Harvard Heart Letter, chest pain is less likely to be heart associated if it is relatable to the following description. However, some conditions that are not heart associated may require serious medical consultation. So be sure to get properly diagnosed.

  • Knifelike or sharp pain that occurs when coughing or breathing
  • Sudden stabbing pain lasting for a few seconds
  • Pain restricted to the either sides
  • Pain restricted to a particular spot
  • Pain lasting for several hours or days with no other symptoms
  • Pain that occurs with the body movement or pressing of the chest

Where is your heart located? How can you identify heart-related pain? Now you know all the answer. 

 
 
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