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What does my chest pain mean?

By Kathleen Troher, health enews, a news service from Advocate Health Care

If you’re experiencing chest pain, experts say you shouldn’t ignore it because you could be having a heart attack.

But a heart attack isn’t always what’s happening – other conditions can trigger chest pain. Here are five reasons you might be having chest pain unrelated to heart attacks.

  1. Pain related to your gastrointestinal (GI) system, stomach or esophagus, such as acid refluxor gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)

“People often experience pain from acid backing up from their stomach into their esophagus,” says Dr. Mehran Jabbarzadeh, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “This type of pain can mimic a heart attack. That’s why they call it heartburn, even though it has nothing to do with the heart.”

  1. Strained chest muscles due to physical activity
  2. Inflammation where rib bone meets cartilage, also known as costochondritis

Dr Jabbarzadeh says people with costochondritis typically feel pain in the chest wall. “It can be caused by inflammation of the joints around the breast bone and ribs or between the breast bone and ribs,” he says, adding that the condition can be diagnosed by a physician.

  1. Lung disease or lung issues, such as clots in the lungs, pneumonia or swelling of the lining around the lungs
  2. Irregular heart beat

Dr. Jabbarzadeh suggests seeking help if you’re unsure what’s causing chest pain.

“If you are experiencing chest pain and you’re not sure what’s causing it, call your doctor or call 911,” he says. “When it comes to chest pain, you can’t be too cautious.”

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