Unlike panic attacks, heart attacks often – although not always – occur during or after physical exertion. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, persistent chest pain, fatigue or weakness. When someone is having a heart attack, symptoms may ebb and flow, but they don’t resolve and may worsen over time.
During a heart attack, chest pain often radiates to the jaw, arm or neck. By contrast, during a panic attack, chest pain tends to remain isolated to the chest and often feels sharper than the squeezing sensation that tends to accompany a heart attack.
“If symptoms are not resolving or you suspect you may be experiencing a medical emergency, the best thing to do is seek medical attention right away,” Dr. Ainani says.
In the ER, your care team can administer tests to determine the cause of your symptoms and provide the treatment you need, he says.
“If you’re young, the chances of having a heart attack are low,” he says. “But if you have severe symptoms and you can’t be sure of the cause, it’s best to seek medical care to rule out something serious like a cardiac event. Prompt care can save your life.”