Rapid heart rate, sudden chest pain, excessive sweating and difficulty breathing are worrisome symptoms that can indicate either a panic attack or a heart attack.
But how can you still differentiate these conditions, given the fact that they have similar symptoms? Read on and find out the answer!
Panic attack vs heart attack (heart attack): symptoms
Panic attack symptoms include:
Sharp pain in the middle of the chest that does not radiate to other areas of the body Tingling in the hands Shortness of breath Fast heart rate Profuse sweating Tremors
Heart attack symptoms include:
Chest pain that feels tight and gasping for air, which may radiate to the jaw or shoulder Nausea Vomiting Difficulty breathing Profuse sweating
So, as can be seen, the two conditions share similar manifestations, but there are some methods by which you can distinguish a panic attack from a heart attack.
What distinguishes a panic attack from a heart attack
First of all, the two conditions are caused by different phenomena. A panic attack occurs amid rising levels of stress hormones, which trigger a fight-or-flight response, usually manifested by rapid heartbeat, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
In the case of a heart attack, the cause is a blocked artery and the symptoms mentioned above appear against the background of the lack of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle.
Another element that can help you distinguish a panic attack from a heart attack is onset of symptoms. Although both medical conditions can occur suddenly and without warning, there are some differences.
For example, a heart attack sometimes occurs during more or less intense physical exertion, such as climbing stairs, while a panic attack often occurs at rest.
Duration of symptoms is another clue that can differentiate between the two conditions. The symptoms of a panic attack usually improve on their own in about 20-30 minutes, while the symptoms of a heart attack may appear mild at first, then worsen and persist for several hours.
Can a panic attack cause a heart attack?
No, a panic attack does not lead to a heart attack, which is triggered by a blockage in the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle.
However, stress and anxiety can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Some studies have shown that people with anxiety disorders may be at increased risk of developing heart disease due to decreased heart rate variability (low heart rate variability – HRV), but further research is needed in this regard.
When to contact the doctor
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it is advisable to seek specialist medical help.
In the case of women who suffer a heart attack, the symptoms may be mild or attributed to fatigue, but they can get worse quickly, and the consequences can be fatal if not acted upon quickly!
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