Heart problems, namely severely clogged arteries, cause chest pain — even at rest if the disease is severe enough.
But how short is too short for chest pain to be heart related?
“Anginal chest pain is by definition, chest pain that is located in the substernal region, brought on by exertion and relieved by rest,” says Donna P. Denier, MD, of The Cardiology Center with the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.
But how long, or how short, can angina chest pain actually last?
Dr. Denier says, “There is no specific limit to the time that it may last. It may last only a few minutes or persist for a more extended period, but is most often from one to 15 minutes.
“Typically, it would be expected that the pain would subside shortly after stopping the activity that brought it on.
“Chest pain of cardiac etiology does not always follow an anginal pattern, particularly in women. There are many atypical presentations which also need to be carefully evaluated.”
When angina chest pain is brought on by physical activity (or high-charged emotions), and dissipates with cessation of the activity, this is called stable angina.
However, this symptom may also occur without any precipitating event. In this case, the condition is known as unstable angina, and it’s far more serious than the stable type.
My mother awoke one morning at 5 a.m. with chest pain that was extremely localized, about the size of a quarter or smaller—she could point to the specific area of her chest where this tiny area of pain was occurring. That morning it persisted till 7 a.m.
I took her to the ER anyways. She was admitted to the cardiac unit and next day, a catheter angiogram revealed “significant disease” in five main arteries.
She was immediately prepped for quintuple bypass surgery and mitral valve replacement.
I would later learn that for a few months preceding the surgery, she had been having the chest pain on and off, sometimes brought on by housework and sometimes for no apparent reason.
Regardless of how long you have chest pain for, get it checked out by a cardiologist rather than assume that it’s a digestive problem.
Dr. Denier has been practicing medicine for over 15 years and is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine – Cardiovascular Disease.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.