How To Tell The Difference
How can you tell if youâre having AFib or an anxiety attack? Itâs a good question. Studies show that stress and anxiety can worsen symptoms of AFib, but more research is needed to find out if people with anxiety and depression are at greater risk for developing it. Research also shows that people with AFib are more likely to get depression or anxiety because the condition affects your quality of life.
How To Hang On: Coping During A Pandemic
A poll conducted in mid-April 2020 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 56% of adults reported that worry and stress because of the pandemic has had a negative effect on their mental health.
Respondents reported adverse effects such as trouble sleeping, poor appetite or overeating, frequent headaches or stomachaches, difficulty in controlling their temper, or increasing alcohol/drug use, and worsening chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. This is up from 45% reporting that stress over coronavirus had negatively affected their mental health in a KFF poll conducted in late March 2020.9
Right now everybody has increased anxiety, whether youre healthy as a horse, whether you have a psychiatric illness, or not, says Dr. McCann.
Telemedicine can help by connecting people with their doctors, and video meeting apps provide a means to keep up a social life as we remain in our homes. More on how to access telemedicine.
Dr. McCann also suggests exercising together with friends via video chat to support social interaction, while Dr. Bhatia recommends practicing mindfulness to ease stress.
Symptoms that are related to anxiety/panic can improve with mindfulness-based breathing exercises, says Dr. Bhatia.10 More on this technique from Dr. Bhatia.
What Should I Do When Chest Pain Strikes
If you feel badly enough to wonder if youre having a heart attack, you should go to the emergency room.
Thats because there are no single defining characteristics that will tell you if youre having a heart attack, says, Gary Weeks, M.D., chief of cardiology at the Heart Institute at UW Medical Center – Northwest.
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Quick Read Angina Or Anxiety
- Many people go to the emergency room with chest pain that feels like a heart attack but is instead anxiety.
- Its unlikely that a young person without risk factors is having a heart attack, but you should still go to the emergency room if you experience symptoms.
Picture this: Your heart is racing. It feels like its not just beating in your chest but in your throat and neck. Its beating so hard that its impossible to think of anything else.
You feel short of breath, but short of breath doesnt quite describe it. Its more like youre smothering or choking. And when you think about it, swallowing is difficult, too.
On top of this, you are sweating and shaking uncontrollably. And you are dizzy to the point of needing to throw up.
Your chest gets tighter and tighter. You feel a sense of impending doom. Youre worried that you may be having a heart attack. What else could it be?
What Are The Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
A panic attack is a sudden attack of overwhelming fear or anxiety. Panic attacks are not life-threatening, but they interfere with your quality of life and mental well-being.
People who have regular or frequent panic attacks may have a panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder. But an isolated panic attack can happen to anyone, even without a panic disorder diagnosis.
- Feeling of squeezing or, says Dr. Miller, like an elephant sitting on your chest.
- Achy or burning sensation, like heartburn.
Panic attacks often cause:
- Sharp or stabbing pain .
- Heart racing or chest discomfort thats hard to describe.
Heart attacks tend to happen after physical strain or exertion a sign not found in panic attacks. A heart attack might happen after shoveling snow or walking up a long flight of stairs, Dr. Miller says. But you wouldnt have a panic attack after exercise unless there was an emotional stress trigger with it.
But what if the symptoms hit you at night? Both panic attacks and heart attacks can wake you from sleep. But theres a key difference: People who have nighttime, or nocturnal, panic attacks usually have daytime panic attacks, too.
So if you wake up with chest pain or other symptoms, and you dont have a history of panic attacks, that might be a sign of a heart attack.
How long it lasts
Panic attack symptoms last a few minutes or up to an hour. Then, the symptoms disappear, and you feel better. But a heart attack wont let up.
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What Anxiety Chest Pain Feels Like
Anxiety symptoms are rarely the same from person to person. Some days, symptoms arent even the same for the same person. Anxiety presents itself in a variety of ways, and that makes detecting or understanding symptoms difficult.
Chest pain associated with anxiety feels different for each person. Some people may experience chest pain on a gradual basis. For others, the pain may be sudden and unexpected. Anxiety chest pain can be described as:
- sharp, shooting pain
- an unusual muscle twitch or spasm in your chest
- burning, numbness, or a dull ache
- stabbing pressure
- chest tension or tightness
If you dont have a history of chest pain with anxiety, you may be alarmed. Many people assume theyre having a heart attack and go to the hospitals emergency department for treatment.
An estimated 25 to 50 percent of patients who come to the emergency department with low risk chest pain experience moderate to severe anxiety, according to 2018 research.
If you visit a hospital emergency room and the doctors dont find a specific cause for your chest pain, consider consulting with your doctor about other possible causes, including anxiety.
Other Causes Of Palpitations
In addition to anxiety, there are several other causes of heart palpitations. Palpitations can be brought on by:
- Alcohol. Having one or two too many drinks in a night can get your heart racing. People who rarely drink to excess, but do so at the occasional party may feel a fluttering in their chest later. This is sometimes called holiday heart.
- Caffeine. Each persons caffeine sensitivity is unique. You might drink three cups of coffee every morning and feel fine. A co-worker might try that and develop palpitations, headache, and other side effects. With the popularity of high-caffeine beverages, such as specialty coffees and canned energy drinks, researchers are learning more about how high levels of caffeine can lead to heart rhythm disturbances, high blood pressure, and other problems.
- Chocolate. Palpitations can develop from eating too much at one sitting. Overdoing your food intake at a dinner or other event can lead to a version of holiday heart. Chocolate is particularly associated with palpitations.
- Medications. Cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine may trigger heart palpitations and jittery feelings.
For some people, palpitations are signs of an arrhythmia, a problem with the hearts electrical system that controls your heartbeats. A normal, resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. There are several types of arrhythmias. Each type produces unique symptoms, including an irregular heart rate. Among them are:
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Panic Attack Or Heart Attack
The symptoms of a panic attack can overlap the symptoms of a heart attack, clinically termed myocardial infarction , making it difficult for a person to know which one may be occurring.6 People often go to the emergency room with chest pain believing they have a heart issue, but research shows that roughly 60% to 90% of ER patients with chest pain do not have a cardiac cause of the pain.7
How does a panic attack feel different from a heart attack?
Unfortunately, says Una McCann, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Anxiety Disorders Program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, They can feel identical. People often are short of breath, feel dizzy, and can feel crushing chest pain. Somebody who is perfectly healthy, with great lungs, undergoing a panic attack can feel really, really short of breath. And then, of course, those symptoms feed on the panic so it builds exponentially to this enormous crescendo.
Dr. McCann explains that because of the many different ways that people experience symptoms of heart attacks and panic attacks, theres no way to know the cause of those symptoms on your own.
There are a variety of symptoms that people who are having myocardial infarctions experience or dont experience, so certainly if someone came in with a panic attack to an emergency room, they would undergo a full workup for an MI, no question, she says.
Is It Anxiety Or Heart Problems
Although anxiety and anxiety disorders are known to raise your heart rate, an elevated resting heart rate can sometimes signal heart problems, Dr. Doshi says. “It can be really just something as simple as stress or adrenaline release, which can occur from anxiety but can also reflect a short circuit from the heart,” he explains.
Panic attacks and heart attacks can share very similar symptoms, including chest pain, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath, according to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, but are unsure of what they may mean, seek medical attention immediately.
How do you otherwise know when you should seek treatment for anxiety and an elevated heart rate? First, be sure to contact your doctor with your concerns because your doctor can help you determine whether what you’re experiencing is anxiety-related or if other heart-related factors are at play.
“If it is simply related to anxiety, then I recommend seeing someone to treat the anxiety,” Dr. Doshi says, adding that “one needs to make sure that this is related to anxiety because, oftentimes, people can have an abnormal heartbeat, which is often blamed on anxiety.”
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Tachycardia Can Cause Anxiety
Abnormal heart rhythms of more than 100 beats per minute that come from the upper heart chambers are called supraventricular tachycardias . These can occur in healthy hearts as well as in people who’ve had prior heart injuries or problems. In most people, SVTs are random events not triggered by exercise or other activities. SVTs cause symptoms of heart palpitations, lightheadedness, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and, at times, they may cause you to pass out. The mind responds and can cause further symptoms of anxiety and panic.
Most of the time, I encounter people who’ve had anxiety for a few years and for whom medications haven’t worked which prompted their doctors to look for additional potential causes.
Panic Attack Vs Heart Attack: How To Tell The Difference
Your heart suddenly begins racing. You feel pain in your chest and you are short of breath.
Are you having a heart attack? Or could it be a panic attack?
Although they share a number of similarities, the two conditions result from very different disease processes. Panic attacks arise when stress hormones trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response, often resulting in racing heart, chest pain and shortness of breath.
In the case of a heart attack, a blockage in a coronary artery may result in the same symptoms. “Chest pain, rapid heartbeat and breathlessness may result when an insufficient amount of blood reaches the heart muscle,” says Tung.
One of the key distinctions between the two is that a heart attack often develops during physical exertion, whereas a panic attack can occur at rest.
A heart attack is more likely to develop when the work load of the heart increases, for example while a person is shoveling snow or running up the stairs, especially in people who do not routinely engage in physical exertion.
Another difference is duration: Panic attacks tend to gradually subside and resolve on their own within about 20 minutes. A heart attack, however, will often continue and may worsen over time.
When Your Heart Skips a Beat
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Get Up And Get Moving
Physical activity and exercise can help you manage anxiety and stress. A 2019 meta-analysis in the journal Depression and Anxiety found that compared to people with anxiety disorders who reported low physical activity, people that self-reported a high level of physical activity were more protected from developing anxiety symptoms.
Isaacson points out that while exercise can help with anxiety, it is also known to lower your resting heart rate, which makes it one of the most important factors for heart health. “Exercise is an important method for managing anxiety, especially if you have cardiac disease, since it provides direct benefit to the cardiovascular system,” he says.
Is It Anxiety Or A Heart Problem
Studies suggest that approximately 11 percent of the population suffers from a general anxiety disorder at some point during their lifetime. Anxiety may be felt like a general but low sense of unease, or it may come and go in moments of stress. For some, anxiety involves panic attacks, events that can closely mimic the symptoms of a heart attack.
Because anxiety can coincide with rapid heart rate, abnormal heartbeats, lightheadedness, and chest pain, many people wonder if they are having anxiety, a heart attack, or if symptoms indicate an underlying heart problem. The question is, what comes first: anxiety or rapid heart rate? Here, we discuss some of the clues that may indicate that the heart is the root cause of symptoms.
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Anxiety And Its Impact On Your Heart
People who have generalised anxiety disorder are more likely to suffer from heart attacks and other heart problems. If you already have heart disease, then anxiety symptoms on top increases your risk of heart attack. Scientists believe there may be several reasons for this. Prolonged anxiety can alter your bodys stress response and cause inflammation in the body, which damages the linings of the artery and can cause a build-up of coronary plaque.
Stress hormones can result in disturbance to your heart rhythm, high blood pressure and greater risk of heart attack. Studies show that people with anxiety have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and this can be linked to a higher risk of heart disease. In addition, the platelets become more viscous when a person has anxiety or depression, making the blood more prone to clotting.
It can become a vicious cycle as a diagnosis of heart problems can lead to increased anxiety which may then exacerbate the risks of further heart problems. People may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as smoking, drinking or eating unhealthy food, which can also damage heart health.