Aches and pain in various parts of the body become more common and frequent as a person grows older. So, is the likelihood of having a heart attack. These may appear to be unrelated issues – one a minor problem and the other very serious.
However, there is one place where the pain the possibility of a heart attack converge – pain in the arm and particularly in the left arm. Any pain in this limb could be the sign of a coronary event.
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack is defined as damage to a part of the heart muscle to the extent that its functioning is compromised. The most common cause of a heart attack it is the build up of cholesterol and fatty deposit in the walls of the coronary arteries. This restricts the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart and affects its functioning. A piece of the deposit could break away front the artery wall and block the flow of blood which could also result in a heart attack.
Why Arm Pain?
The association between a heart attack and arm pain may appear to be strange since the arm has not been injured. The reason for the pain in the arm is that the nerves that carry signals from the heart to the brain and those that do the same thing for the arm both send their signals to the same brain cells. Because of this, the brain may get confused about the source of the signal and this can often result in the pain from a heart attack being felt as pain in the arm with no sensation of pain in the chest. This is what is known as referred pain.
What You Should Do If Arm Pain Occurs
Remember that not all arm pain is related to the heart – the cause could be localized in the arm itself with no connection to any other part of the body. However, in the following circumstances medical help should immediately be summoned:
- If the arm pain worsens over a few minutes, even though the arm is being rested.
- If there is any discomfort in the chest such as feelings of pressure, tightness, burning, fullness or a pain the gradually increases in intensity.
- Intermittent discomfort – the pain in the chest comes and goes.
- Shortness of breath or other difficulty in breathing.
- Signs or symptoms usually associated with indigestion.
- Sudden onset of cold sweats
- A feeling of flushing – blood rushing abnormally to one part of the body
- Vomiting or nausea
No one wants to be a hypochondriac and after a certain age, a few aches and pains, especially in the limbs, are normal. It is difficult to know if pain in the arm is caused by stress or injury to the limb or if it is associated with a heart problem. What must be remembered is that arm pain could be the first sign of a heart attack and reacting to this and getting medical help immediately could mean the difference between life and death.