Everyone worries that chest pain is related to the heart and they could be experiencing a heart attack, or myocardial infarction. But what about causes of chest pain not related to heart disease or a heart attack? Noncardiac chest pain (NCCP) is the term used to describe pain in the chest that is not caused by heart disease or a heart attack. Many individuals describe squeezing or burning chest pain, which may radiate to the back, neck, arms, or jaw. It is estimated that approximately 25-percent of the US population has experienced an episode of NCCP. Ten causes of chest pain that are not your heart include…
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1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux, is the most common cause of NCCP. It accounts for 22 to 66-percent of NCCP. The condition is characterized by the back flow, or reflux, of the stomach contents into the esophagus. An imaging study called a barium swallow can be used to diagnose GERD. A barium swallow is an X-ray examination used to visualize the esophagus, the tube connecting the throat and stomach.
Treatment of GERD requires a stepwise approach involving lifestyle modification and control of gastric acid secretion. Lifestyle modifications may include weight loss, avoiding large meals, waiting at least three hours after a meal before lying down, and elevating the head of the bed by eight inches or more. Avoidance of alcohol, peppermint, caffeine, chocolate, citrus juice, and tomato-based foods are also recommended. Depending on severity, drug therapy for GERD may include antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors to lower gastric acid levels.