How to distinguish heart pain from non-heart pain, the main symptoms

If a person has pain in the heart, this may indicate the development of diseases of the cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine or skeletal system. But most of all concerns in people are caused by cardiac pathologies.

Its main symptoms are considered pressing, burning or sharp pain of varying intensity. But only a highly qualified doctor can diagnose and find out the exact cause of the pain.

Heart attack

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Heart attack is one of the most common causes of chest discomfort. The definition is collective, describing the acute state of various heart pathologies. For example, an acute lack of oxygen to cardiac tissues, as a result of which ischemia develops, and then necrosis.

The main signs that it is the heart that hurts are:

  1. Pressing pain. With such pain, it is difficult to describe exactly where it hurts, because the discomfort radiates to the arms, neck, back and lower jaw. The condition is especially pronounced on the left side of the body.
  2. Discomfort occurs after physical or psycho-emotional overload. The pain is relieved by nitroglycerin or goes away on its own.
  3. The condition is accompanied by shortness of breath, profuse sweating and vomiting. Shortness of breath can occur even at rest or with light exertion.
  4. Against the background of chest pain, rapid fatigue, fatigue, or drowsiness appears.
  5. In rare cases, chest discomfort is accompanied by impotence. This is due to the blockage of the great vessels.
  6. The development of edema throughout the body. This criterion is the main sign that it is the heart that hurts. Most pronounced on the lower limbs and face.
  7. Morning time of day. At this time, pain caused by heart ischemia and high blood pressure is most often observed.
  8. Brief cessation of breathing during sleep, accompanied by persistent chest pain, indicates a cardiac etiology of discomfort.

If a person has discovered one of these signs, it is recommended to immediately consult a doctor. The specialist will be able to find out what exactly caused the pain and how to deal with it.


Heart pain can be associated with the development of an inflammatory process, due to an infection in the human body, a heart attack or a malignant tumor.

Inflammation can be caused by the following conditions:

  1. Myocarditis. Acute inflammation of the heart muscle, characterized by aching pain with tingling in the region of the heart. It gets worse during exercise. A distinctive feature is that the discomfort does not go away after taking nitroglycerin.
  2. Pericarditis. The inflammatory process, which is localized in the outer frill of the heart – the pericardium. The pain is diffuse, it can spread to the neck, left arm, shoulder blade and the entire chest. When swallowing, sneezing or coughing, the discomfort increases dramatically. The patient’s temperature rises, heart rate rises, shortness of breath develops.

A distinctive feature of inflammation of the heart tissue is incessant pain that cannot be stopped by nitroglycerin. In such a situation, you should not try to cope with the problem on your own and contact a cardiologist.

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Valve pathologies

There are four different valves in the heart that can cause discomfort when their functions are dysfunctional. Pain in this case may not appear for a long time, then sharply increase to an intolerable state.

It is accompanied by the following symptoms:

  1. dizziness
  2. shortness of breath,
  3. increased pain with exertion,
  4. violation of the rhythm of the heartbeat,
  5. general malaise, weakness.

The disease can accompany a person for a long time, turning into heart failure. With this, there is swelling, obesity and bloating.

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The disease appears due to a malnutrition of myocardial cells or the formation of a tumor. But in clinical practice, the disease is characterized as a pathology of unknown origin. Cardiomyocytes dystrophy, which leads to dysfunction of the heart.

Determining whether such pain is the cause of heart disease is difficult, because the nature of the discomfort is constantly changing, depending on the stage of cardiomyopathy. The pain is not relieved by nitroglycerin and does not increase with exercise.

The following symptoms are inherent in unpleasant sensations:

  1. pain changes and manifests itself in different ways,
  2. discomfort is mild, but does not disappear during the day,
  3. irradiation to the left side of the body.

In the last stages, the pain becomes paroxysmal and intensifies after physical overload. The lesion becomes localized in the region of the heart and does not spread to other parts of the body.

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Arrhythmia is a violation of the normal rhythm of the heartbeat. This condition is accompanied by an unpleasant feeling in the chest. The nature of the pain depends on what caused the arrhythmia:

  1. high pressure,
  2. violation of hormonal levels,
  3. diseases of the cardiovascular system of the body,
  4. obesity,
  5. malignant tumors,
  6. drug therapy,
  7. bad habits (smoking, alcoholism),
  8. metabolic disorders.

The presence of arrhythmia is confirmed only when examined by a doctor using instrumental diagnostic methods, because it is easy to confuse it with other heart diseases.

Heart disease

Such a pathology is most often formed during the formation of the fetus and does not manifest itself in the course of adulthood. But in rare cases, heart defects can cause death.

Symptoms of the disease are typical: hypertension, edema in the leg area, pain of a different nature. Treatment for congenital or acquired defects consists of surgery or symptomatic therapy. It can be diagnosed only after a complete diagnosis of the cardiovascular system.

Left valve prolapse

Severe pathology affecting the left heart valve. It is characterized by the following symptoms:

  1. severe dizziness
  2. tachycardia (high heart rate),
  3. migraine, constant headache,
  4. loss of consciousness, fainting,
  5. shortness of breath, shortness of breath.

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Heart pain does not increase with exertion and is squeezing or aching in nature. It is not stopped by nitroglycerin and appears paroxysmal.

Aortic stenosis and blockage of the pulmonary artery

A narrowing of the arterial lumen in the area of ​​the valve is called aortic stenosis. At the initial stage, the pain is not expressed by specific signs: chest pain, lack of air, fatigue and dizziness. Over time, the pathology turns into an acute stage, when the pain becomes unbearable. In this state, the patient runs the risk of fainting, especially if he suddenly changes position.

When the pulmonary artery is blocked during inspiration, there is a sharp pain behind the sternum. The pain does not radiate to the scapula, left arm or neck and is not relieved by medication.

If appropriate measures are not taken in time, complications may arise:

  1. tachycardia,
  2. oxygen starvation,
  3. hypotension,
  4. cyanosis of the skin.

In such cases, immediate medical attention is required.

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Other reasons

The aorta is located very close to the heart and all pathologies of this vessel are usually referred to as heart diseases.

Important! Often, aortic lesions are detected too late, when modern medicine is no longer able to help. Therefore, it is very important to identify it at the earliest stages.

Such situations include aortic dissection in aneurysm. The condition is accompanied by unbearable pain, as a result of which painful shock develops and the person loses consciousness. In most of these situations, the story ends in death.

But there are also mistakes in the assumption of the diagnosis. Sometimes people assume that they have a bad heart, but it turns out that this is a completely different pain. Such pathologies include the following diseases:

  1. Intercostal neuralgia. The pain is worse when you cough or take a deep breath. The condition may not change for more than five days. Localization in the upper chest.
  2. Osteochondrosis. May be confused with cardiac abnormalities if the lesion is in the thoracic or cervical region. The pain increases with movement or sharp turns of the body.
  3. Neuroses. Sometimes in the autonomic nervous system there are disorders in which the heart or stomach hurts, in addition, panic attacks are often observed.
  4. Lung diseases. The initial stages of the development of pleurisy or acute pneumonia have similar symptoms to cardiac pathologies. You can distinguish them only by making an X-ray and taking an ECG.

If a person suspects that it is the heart that hurts, it is recommended to consult a specialist as soon as possible. You should not try to solve the problem yourself or treat yourself at home. This will avoid many complications.

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Svetlana Borszavich

General practitioner, cardiologist, with active work in therapy, gastroenterology, cardiology, rheumatology, immunology with allergology.
Fluent in general clinical methods for the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, as well as electrocardiography, echocardiography, monitoring of cholera on an ECG and daily monitoring of blood pressure.
The treatment complex developed by the author significantly helps with cerebrovascular injuries and metabolic disorders in the brain and vascular diseases: hypertension and complications caused by diabetes.
The author is a member of the European Society of Therapists, a regular participant in scientific conferences and congresses in the field of cardiology and general medicine. She has repeatedly participated in a research program at a private university in Japan in the field of reconstructive medicine.