Heart Attack or Panic Attack? How To Tell the Difference

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,1 nearly 805,000 Americans have a heart attack each year, and 605,000 are first heart attacks. Knowing the risk factors, symptoms and how to take early action will increase your chances of survival.

However, what may look and feel like an apparent heart attack may actually be a panic attack, and according to researchers, the cost of misdiagnosing noncardiac chest pain is high.2 “It is important for physicians to be able to recognize panic attacks and to distinguish them from cardiac disease, thus avoiding unnecessary use of health care resources,” one report states.3

An investigation4 published in 1996 found that 25% of emergency room patients presenting with chest pain met the DSM-III-R criteria for panic disorder, yet attending emergency department cardiologists failed to recognize patients having a panic attack 98% of the time. As noted by the authors:5

“Panic disorder is a significantly distressful condition highly prevalent in ED [emergency department] chest pain patients that is rarely recognized by physicians. Nonrecognition may lead to mismanagement of a significant group of distressed patients with or without coronary artery disease.”

So, just how do you tell the two apart? Before we get into those details, let’s take a look at the common signs and symptoms associated with each.

Symptoms of Heart Attack

When a heart attack starts, blood flow to your heart has suddenly become blocked and the muscle can’t get oxygen. If not treated quickly, the muscle fails to pump and begins to die. While often a result of coronary heart disease, a heart attack can also be caused by a blood clot blocking an artery. Some of the most common symptoms of a heart attack include:6

Energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can also be very effective for anxiety and panic attacks.24,25,26 EFT is akin to acupuncture, which is based on the concept that a vital energy flows through your body along invisible pathways known as meridians.

EFT stimulates different energy meridian points in your body by tapping them with your fingertips, while simultaneously using custom-made verbal affirmations. This can be done alone or under the supervision of a qualified therapist. By doing so, you reprogram the way your body responds to emotional stressors.

EFT is particularly powerful for treating stress and anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.27 EFT has also been scientifically shown to lower cortisol levels,28 which are elevated when you’re stressed or anxious.

In the video above, EFT therapist Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for panic attacks. Please keep in mind that while anyone can learn to do EFT at home, self-treatment for serious issues like persistent anxiety is not recommended. For serious or complex issues, you need someone to guide you through the process. That said, the more you tap, the more skilled you’ll become.

Heart Attack Prevention

As for heart attacks, your best course of action is to take proactive measures to prevent them. According to a 2015 study, more than 70% of heart attacks could be prevented by implementing:29

  • A healthy diet
  • Normal body mass index
  • Getting at least 2.5 hours of exercise each week and watching television seven or fewer hours per week
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Limiting alcohol to one drink or less per day

To this I would add maintaining a healthy iron level is important for your heart, as various studies show that both iron deficiency and iron overload30 can be a significant risk factor for heart attack.

For example, a Scandinavian study31 found elevated ferritin levels raised men’s risk of heart attack two- to threefold. Another32 found elevated ferritin raised the risk of a fatal heart attack by 218% in men, while women with high levels were 5.53 times more likely to have a fatal heart attack.

As discussed in “Why Hard Water Decreases Heart Attacks,” magnesium insufficiency has also been implicated in heart attacks, so you want to make sure you’re getting enough magnesium from your diet and/or supplements. In “Could You Have a Heart Attack and Not Know It?” I also review some of the underlying issues that cause heart attacks, and additional steps you can take to lower your risk.

Sources and References

The post Heart Attack or Panic Attack? How To Tell the Difference appeared first on LewRockwell.


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