If after climbing a flight of stairs, you find yourself catching your breath and experiencing painful pressure in your chest, you may be getting a warning of early heart disease. The added stress on your heart by climbing the stairs causes it to work harder, and the disease may be depriving the heart of oxygen. Here is what your heart may be warning you about and what to do before even more serious heart problems arise.
Your Heart Needs Blood and Oxygen Like All Other Muscles
Special blood vessels, called the coronary arteries, provide your heart with blood and remove waste materials. Oxygen is one of the key elements in the blood that fuels the heart muscle. As your physical activity increases, such as climbing a flight of stairs, your heart rate increases, and so does the requirement for oxygen. More blood is pumped through the coronary arteries to satisfy your heart's need for more oxygen.
When these special blood vessels become damaged due to heart disease, they aren't able to send the blood needed to the heart. The heart muscle becomes starved of oxygen and reacts by sending you a painful signal. Angina is the term used to describe the heart pain you felt going up the stairs. When you rested at the top of the stairs, the pain went away as your heart rate went down.
Chest Pain Versus a Heart Attack
The chest pain while climbing stairs was a warning. It means you still have time to react before the heart disease gets serious. If the pain had not subsided when you rested at the top of the stairs, your doctor would say that you've had a heart attack. This is an indication that some of your heart muscle is being permanently damaged, and if not addressed immediately, death may be imminent. A full-blown heart attack often consists of:
- Intense pressure in your chest that doesn't go away as you rest
- Radiating pain from the chest into your neck and shoulders and down your left arm
- Pain that ebbs and flows between periods of intense and mild pain
Factors Contributing to Heart Disease
A number of conditions can prevent the coronary arteries from providing your heart with enough blood. Some of these include:
- Atherosclerosis - This is a disease that causes the blood vessels to lose their flexibility. This reduces their ability to respond to the heart's request for varying levels of blood and oxygen.
- High cholesterol - This can allow fatty deposits to build up on the walls of the blood vessels. The deposits allow less blood to flow through the coronary arteries to the heart. In advanced cases of heart disease, the vessels may become completely blocked.
- Diabetes - This disease causes changes in the walls of the blood vessels so they are no longer as efficient at pumping blood.
At the first sign of chest pain, contact your doctor. They will refer you to the heart doctors who specialize in diagnosing heart disease and recommend treatment to prevent you from having a heart attack. Don't ignore this warning sign as it may be the only one you get before you have a much more painful experience.Share