Join for Just $16 A Year
- Discounts on travel and everyday savings
- Subscription to AARP The Magazine
- Free membership for your spouse or partner
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chest pain is one of the most common reasons that people ages 15 and older visit the emergency room. In 2008, about nine percent of all ER visits were related to chest pain. (CDC, 2010)
Chest pain varies from person to person. It may feel like a sharp, stabbing pain or a dull ache. While chest pain may be a sign of a serious heart-related problem, it may also have other common, non–life-threatening causes.
When you have chest pain, your first thought may be that you are having a heart attack. While chest pain is a possible sign of a heart problem, many other, less serious conditions can also cause chest pain. Only about 13 percent of all ER visits for chest pain result in a diagnosis of a serious heart-related problem. (CDC, 2010)
Chest pain may be accompanied by other symptoms that will help with diagnosis.
While pain is the most common symptom of a heart problem, some people experience other symptoms, with or without accompanying chest pain. Women in particular have reported atypical symptoms that have later been diagnosed as a heart condition.
Symptoms that may indicate your chest pain is not heart-related include:
If you think you may be having a heart attack, it’s important that you seek emergency treatment immediately, especially if chest pain is new, unexplained, or lasts more than a few moments.
Your doctor will ask a number of questions to help diagnose the cause of your chest pain. Be prepared to discuss any related symptoms and to share information about any medications, treatments, or other medical conditions you may have.
Your doctor may order tests to help diagnose or eliminate heart-related problems as a cause of your chest pain. These may include:
Chest pain might be treated with medication, noninvasive procedures, surgery, or a combination of all of the above.
Many common causes of chest pain can be easily treated and resolved. However, chest pain can also be a symptom of a life-threatening condition.
If you think you may be experiencing a heart attack or other heart problem, seeking medical treatment immediately can help save your heart muscle and your life. Once you have been diagnosed, your doctor can recommend additional treatments to help manage your condition.
Written by: Danielle Moores
Updated on Feb 15, 2013
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.
Member access to health and insurance products and services at AARPhealthcare.com.
Members can get an instant quote with AARP® Dental Insurance administered by Delta Dental Insurance Company.
Members can save on eyewear with AARP® Vision Discounts provided by EyeMed.
Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.