West Valley Medical Center - December 03, 2015

Here's the issue with chest pain: Knowing whether it's just soreness, indigestion or a sign of something more serious.

Sometimes chest pain can be kind of vague, leading people to ignore it until it becomes a real problem. But because it can be a symptom of a serious medical condition, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that seeking immediate medical treatment might be your best bet.

Fortunately, you won't have to look very far for that help.

West Valley Medical Center recently became the first hospital in Canyon County to become an Accredited Chest Pain Center by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

If your chest starts aching, here's when you should come to our Chest Pain Center or wait it out:

The tricky thing about chest pain is figuring out its cause in order to determine the best course of treatment. There could be a number of causes behind your chest pain from heart and blood vessel problems to digestive issues, says the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This medical issue: Heart and blood vessel problems Lung problems Digestive problems Other problems
Can cause this type of pain:
  • Angina
  • Heart attack
  • Aortic tear
  • Swelling around the heart
  • Blood clot in the lung
  • Collapsed lung
  • Pneumonia
  • Swelling around the lung
  • Narrowing of the esophagus
  • Gallstones
  • Heartburn
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Panic attack
  • Shingles
  • Muscle strain or inflammation

Source: National Institutes of Health

You might think that pain is pain, no matter where it occurs, and popping some aspirin will take care of it. But with chest pain, you may want to think again.

Yes or No: Should You Go to the ER?

  • Does your chest feel like it's being crushed, squeezed, or tightened?
  • Does the pain spread to...
    • Your jaw?
    • Your left arm?
    • Between your shoulder blades?
  • Are you also experiencing...
    • Nausea?
    • Dizziness?
    • Sweating?
    • Increased heart rate?
    • Difficulty breathing?
  • Have you been diagnosed with angina?
  • Is the pain more intense than normal?
  • Does the pain still happen when you're at rest?
  • Is one leg swollen?
  • Is the pain sharp and sudden, especially after sitting or lying still for a long period of time?

Is It a Heart Attack or a Pulmonary Embolism?

Chest pain could be a sign of either a heart attack or a pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the lungs and can be fatal. The symptoms are pretty similar:

Heart Attack Symptoms Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms Symptoms in Common
  • Vomiting
  • Cold Sweat
  • Discomfort in your arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Bluish skin
  • Fast breathing or wheezing
  • Leg pain, redness, or swelling
  • Fast heart rate
  • Sweating, clamminess
  • Sudden cough
  • Chets pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Source: National Institutes of Health

    720,000: the number of Americans who suffer heart attacks each year. Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    92% of people know that chest pain can be a symptom of a heart attack. 27% of people know all the major heart attack symptoms. Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    47% of all sudden cardiac deaths happen outside of a hospital. Knowing early warning signs is key. Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Knowing your risk factors for these conditions may help you recognize the symptoms more quickly and seek treatment in time.

    Heart Attack Risk Factors Pulmonary Embolism Risk Factors
    • Family history
    • Smoking
    • Cocaine use
    • Overweight/obesity
    • High cholesterol
    • High blood pressure
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Family history
    • Recent childbirth
    • Recent heart attack or stroke
    • Recent surgery
    • Long plane or car rides
    • Cancer
    • Birth control pills or estrogen therapy
    • Long-term bed rest

    Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    And remember: if you think you may be having a heart attack, don't drive yourself to the hospital. West Valley is an accredited chest pain center and has board-certified ER physicians available 24/7, but driving yourself could put you and other drivers at risk. Call 911.