Heart Conditions - University of Minnesota Physicians Heart at Fairview

Chest Pain

Chest pain can come on suddenly. Is it a heart attack? Not always, it can be many conditions.

But if you think you are having a heart attack, act quickly. Coronary artery disease sometimes won’t give you a second chance. In one out of three people, the first warning sign of a heart attack is death.

If you are having symptoms of a heart attack—pain in your chest, pain radiating down your left arm, or indigestion and a funny feeling that something is wrong—act immediately. Don’t wait an hour or two to see if you feel better. Call 9-1-1 for an ambulance. The paramedics can help diagnose and stabilize you in the ambulance. If you reach the door of the hospital by ambulance, the death rate for heart attacks is under 5 percent. Here are commons reasons for chest pain:

Heart Attack
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart is cut off for a prolonged period of time.
Heart attacks can be sudden or intense, but most begin slowly. If you think you may be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

Common warning signs of a heart attack

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, tightness, heaviness or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes
  • Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck, arms or jaw
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath

Less common warning signs of a heart attack

  • Stomach or abdominal pain; indigestion-like discomfort in the chest, especially with activity
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Unexplained anxiety, weakness or fatigue
  • Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness

Symptoms of angina are similar to a heart attack, but not as intense and usually go away in 15 minutes with medication and rest.

Other reasons
Often, chest pain is unrelated to heart problems, such as:

  • Heart burn
  • Muscular pain


Remember, coronary artery disease sometimes won’t give you a second chance. If you are experience chest pain symptoms that concern you, call 9-1-1 immediately.