Am I having a heart attack or panic attack? The signs of both are scary but one is life threatening and the other isn’t. When I had my first panic attack I thought I was having a heart attack. I felt stomach pain that was accompanied by a sudden feeling of dizziness. Soon I was getting short of breath and my hands started going numb. I started getting an intense wave of heat all over my body and my head felt like it was going to fly off my body. I felt really nauseated and had a feeling like I was about to pass out. Most of what happened after I don’t remember because I did pass out, but I ended up in the Emergency Room and after a battery of tests they told me I was fine. But how could I be fine just a few hours ago I thought I was about to die.
As it turns out panic attacks and heart attacks share many of the same symptoms. Knowing which one you are having could save your life. And first of all if you even think you are having a heart attack call 911. If you wait too long as in the case of my wife you could cause irreversible damage to your heart. Now here is a comparison of symptoms.
Chest pain and rapid heart beat. These are the most common symptoms people relate to a heart attack, but during a panic attack you can also have chest pain and a rapid heart rate. As a rule if you have chest pain that lasts for more than 15 minutes you are probably having a heart attack or heart related problem. With a panic attack after 15 minutes your heart should be slowing down and the pain should be subsiding. Usually panic attacks only last until you exhaust your supply of adrenalin.
Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, numbness. Both could have these signs. In women these symptoms show up more often during a heart attack than in men. During a panic attack your heart rate jumps causing rapid breathing. This causes hyperventilation. When someone hyperventilates blood moves from your extremities to the core of your body. When the blood moves to the core of your body your hands, feet and face start to feel numb. You also get very dizzy almost to the point that you pass out, and some people like myself do. Now in the case of a heart attack most people may feel like they are getting the flu but most of the time they get pains in their left arm, chest, upper back or inner arm. This is very difficult in women for example like my wife we thought she had a bad case of the flu and it turns out that she was having a heart attack for most of the day until we took her to the ER.
The most important thing to remember is if you feel like you are having a heart attack get help immediately. Most people have about an hour after the onset of a heart attack to get treatment to prevent irreversible damage to the heart. It is also good to go to a cardiologist even if you don’t have symptoms. They can help prevent heart problems with early detection of blocked arteries, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. All of which can be treated before the onset of a full blown heart attack.