UNC Health Care
Illustration of a man gripping his chest in pain with the words 'chest pain, not attack' written on his arms.

Chest Pain that Isn’t a Heart Attack: UNC Health Talk Podcast Episode 1


Do you ever experience a pain in your chest and ask yourself, “Am I having a heart attack?”

In this—the very first episode of UNC Health Talk: The Podcast—we discuss chest pain that is NOT a heart attack with Deepak Pasi, MD, cardiologist at North Carolina Heart and Vascular, part of UNC REX Healthcare.

We learn that there are three major signs that your chest pain is not your heart hurting.

  • The source of the pain can be pointed to with a finger. If the pain is pinpointed, it’s not the heart.
  • The pain gets worse when you take a deep breath or press on your chest.
  • The pain changes and moves around.

If any of these matches your chest pain, odds are that you are not having a heart attack.

There are some heart conditions that might cause discomfort, though, without being a heart attack.

  • Inflammation of the covering of the heart.
  • Aortic dissection. The inner lining of the aorta splits. This is excruciatingly painful and can be life threatening.
  • Inflammation of the heart that typically doesn’t hurt but causes shortness of breath or irregular heartbeat.
  • Can be caused by myocarditis and causes the same symptoms as myocarditis.

Most people say a heart attack feels more like tightness than a pain. Learn what a heart attack really feels like.

Remember: heart attack symptoms are often different for men and women. Familiarize yourself with the difference between heart attack symptoms for men and women.