Jay Hsu, M.D.,  Cardiology
Jay Hsu, M.D., Cardiology

I’ve read that you can experience chest pain without it being a heart attack. How do you know the difference?

Traditionally, chest pain related to heart disease was described as a pressure or heavy sensation in the left- or mid-portion of the chest, associated with nausea, shortness of breath, and/or diaphoresis with radiation to the jaw or arm. However, 70 percent of women and diabetics may not have chest pain at all, but may have only a portion of the typical symptoms, like arm pain or shortness of breath. Additionally, pains may not be cardiac at all, such as chest pain from muscular spasms, heartburn or even stress. This is a big topic that requires more discussion, so talk to a medical professional if you are concerned about cardiac chest pain.

What is the risk of a heart disease if a parent or grandparent had an open-heart surgery?

Family history of heart disease does increase your risk, but we generally look at your immediate family members (parents, siblings) to see if they have had heart issues at a young age, men under 55 years of age and women under 65 years of age. However, this is only one variable that adds risk to each individual in calculating chances of developing heart disease. Other variables include history of tobacco use, diabetes, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, obesity and exercise habits. These risk factors help determine how your medical team recommends therapies like aspirin, stress testing for monitoring and cholesterol targets.