Heart Attack and Panic Attack: These events can be confusing if you don’t know what to look for

Heart Attack
Are you having a heart attack? Or is it a panic attack?

Both, a panic attack and a heart attack, can have very similar symptoms, and differentiating one from the other could be extremely difficult. The overlap of symptoms associated with a heart attack and panic attack aren’t uncommon. Stress and anxiety that causes panic attacks can also cause heart attacks. Also Read: What’s the difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest?

What do doctors say: Despite sharing similarities, both conditions are very different from each other and are a consequence of very dissimilar disease processes.  Panic attacks are a result of the body’s “fight or flight” response triggered by stress hormones, frequently resulting in racing heart, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

On the other hand, heart attacks are a result of a blockage in coronary artery, with similar symptoms. Also Read: High cholesterol: Adding new medications to statins may lower harmful cholesterol

How to differentiate? Heart attack is often a result of physical exertion that increases the workload, especially in people who do not habitually engage in physical activity. Panic attacks, on the other hand, can occur at rest and generally resolves or subsides on its own within about 30 minutes or an hour.

Key differences:

Heart Attack

  • Chest pain escalates and reaches maximum severity after a few minutes
  • Chest pain also radiates to the arm, jaw, or shoulder blades.
  • Shortness of breath, and usually the pain is brought on by exertion
  • Sweating

Panic Attack

  • Increased heart rate with localized pain
  • Sudden onset of stabbing pain in the middle of the chest. It usually occurs the the person is at rest
  • Pain during a panic attack worsens when the patient’s position is shifted
  • Pain can also be replicated by pressing over the area of pain

Bottom line: Seek medical attention if you are not sure about the episode. Be watchful and get yourself checked regularly. Practice deep breathing exercises or meditation, and try and relax to minimize stress. If you are a heart patient, then stay on your medications and don’t miss them even if you are feeling good. Also Read: COVID-19 and Smokers: Cigarette smoking linked to higher risk of coronavirus transmission and death


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