Experiencing chest pain can be very distressing and usually prompts a visit to the doctor. It can be a result of both cardiac and non-cardiac problems. If it is of cardiac origin, it is usually referred as angina.
Angina is a result of partially or totally blocked cardiac (coronary) arteries. As we get older, particles of lipids accumulate inside the wall of the coronary arteries and gradually cause “furring” of the arteries. In people with cardiovascular risk factors (smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, etc) this process is accelerated and happens earlier in life. Therefore, it is not unusual for 40-year old to end up with blocked arteries, especially if there is strong family history of coronary artery disease.
Chest pain may also be the first sign of a heart attack. Anyone with new-onset chest pain should seek medical advice as soon as possible. It is important to have an electrocardiogram (ECG), while the pain is still present. However, this is not always possible because the pain may be intermittent. In that case your doctor can arrange a series of test to check whether the pain is of cardiac origin (angina).
You may have angina if your pain:
Is worse when you exercise/walk/climb a set of stairs
Goes away when you rest
Happens every time you exert yourself
Is based in the centre of the chest, on the left side or radiates to the neck and the left arm
Lasts for a few minutes
Is not constant
Is causing dizziness, vomiting or breathlessness