Where is the Heart Located?

Where is the Heart Located?
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Your heart, located in the middle of your chest and protected behind your ribs, is one of the most important organs in your body. It can be very worrying if you experience any kind of chest pain because of the fear of having a heart attack. However, not all pains in your chest are caused by cardiac pains. Therefore, many people ask the question where is the heart located to understand better if their chest pain is cardiac related.

Later on, the article will discuss the signs of heart attack and other chest pains that are heart related as well as cases of non-cardiac chest pain.

Where Is Your Heart Located?

Many people are surprised to learn that their heart location is in the center of their chest, not on the left-hand side. Your heart is found behind your breastbone (sternum) and is located between your lungs. The center of the heart is located slightly to the left of the mid-line of your body. It is protected in a membrane called the pericardium.

Your heart is surrounded by important blood vessels and arteries which pump blood into and out of your heart. According to Dr. Matthew Hoffman on WebMD, the left ventricle is the strongest chamber of the heart and this pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. It is the contractions of the left ventricle that create your blood pressure.1

Now that you know the exact place where the heart is located in the body, let’s look at the causes of chest pain to find out if these are always something to worry about. Many people automatically assume that any kind of pain in the chest is related to their heart. However, even though your heart lies in your chest, there are many non-cardiac related causes of chest pain.

Chest Pains that are Heart Related

You should never ignore any kind of chest pain because it can be a symptom of heart disease that requires urgent medical attention. However, in order to know if your pain is cardiac related, doctors look at other symptoms which can indicate if the chest pains are serious.

The two main heart-related causes of chest pain are cardiac failure and angina.

Heart attack symptoms

Now that it’s clear where the heart is located in your chest, what are the main symptoms of a congestive heart failure?

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains that a heart attack, or myocardial infarction, happens when the flow of blood to one or more of the heart’s chambers becomes blocked. One of the main reasons for the artery blockage is a buildup of plaque, which some believe is caused by high cholesterol in the blood (although there are opposing views on that subject). This results in damage to the heart muscle where the heart can’t pump enough blood to the body.2

Dr. James Beckerman on WebMD says that the most common symptoms of a heart attack are:3

Chest pain or discomfort. You may feel mild to severe pain or discomfort in the left or center of your chest. This pain could come and go. Many describe this as a “squeezing” pain and it could also resemble heartburn.

Upper body discomfort. Pain can radiate to your arms, back, and jaw. You may also experience pain in the area above your belly button. It is very common for men especially to experience pain in their left arm.

Shortness of breath. Shortness of breath may or may not accompany chest pains. You could feel short of breath even if you’re not engaged in any physical activity. This could be accompanied by extreme weakness and anxiety.

You may also experience sweating, nausea, dizziness, and rapid or irregular heartbeats.

Although these are the most common symptoms of heart failure, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute warn that many people with diabetes don’t experience any chest pain during a heart attack.2

According to Dr. Leslie Cho, Director of Women’s Cardiovascular Center at the Cleveland Clinic, many women have different symptoms than men. For example, women usually have pain in both arms (not just their left arm) and their neck and jaw. They may experience more fatigue and shortness of breath as cardiac symptoms.4

According to WebMD, some women may experience feeling like a squeezing or fullness, and the pain can be anywhere in the chest, not just on the left side.12

If you think that you are having a heart attack, you should call the emergency services immediately.

Angina

Angina also causes chest pains that are related to the heart and is caused by a reduction in oxygen getting to the heart. The reasons for angina symptoms are usually connected with coronary heart disease caused by narrow or blocked arteries, called ischemia.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, angina causes chest pain or discomfort, pain radiating to your arms, neck, and back. You may also have nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and sweating.5

Angina can also be a medical emergency if you have unstable angina. This is when you experience angina symptoms even when resting, or your symptoms last longer than 30 minutes and angina medication doesn’t help.

Cardiac vs non-cardiac chest pain

Because your heart is located in the middle of your chest and slightly to the left, many people assume that any chest pain is cardiac-related. Even though you should never ignore mild to severe pains in your chest, they could be caused by other factors, such as pulled muscle in the chest.

According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, there are differences between cardiac and non-cardiac pain. This can help to determine the cause of your chest pain.6

Heart-related chest pain

Cardiac pain is more likely to cause these symptoms:

  • Pain, a burning sensation, tightness, or a squeezing feeling in your chest.
  • Pain in the middle of your chest that radiates to your left arm, neck, jaw, or back.
  • Pain accompanied by sweating, sudden nausea, and difficulty breathing.
  • You feel the pain during or after physical activity or while you are resting.

Non-cardiac chest pain

Chest pain that isn’t related to your heart is likely to cause the following symptoms:

  • Coughing or breathing causes a sharp, stabbing pain.
  • The pain only lasts few seconds.
  • You feel pain when you press on the area, or it’s painful when you move.
  • The pain stays with you for a long time without other symptoms.

The Mayo Clinic says that heartburn causes a burning feeling in your chest and this symptom could be caused by your stomach (acid reflux) or your heart.7

Other Causes of Chest Pain

Just because your heart is located in your chest, you don’t have to assume that all type of chest pain is a symptom of cardiac problems. Let’s look at some of the causes of chest pain that aren’t connected with your heart.

Heartburn / GERD

Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause non-cardiac chest pain under the ribs. Heartburn and GERD are caused by stomach acid escaping back up the esophagus which causes irritation, discomfort, and pain.

According to Dr. Jennifer Robinson on WebMD, the burning pain is felt in the middle of the chest and may also cause sharp, stabbing chest pains. Dr. Robinson also says that the pain can feel like heart-related pain.8

Other symptoms of heartburn and GERD are a feeling of something stuck in your throat, stomach pain after eating, and a sour stomach.

If you suffer from heartburn, please read my article about the 12 natural ways to get rid of heartburn and stomach ulcer symptoms.

Panic attack

One of the most common symptoms of a panic attack is severe chest pains like a heart attack. Panic attacks often cause a person to hyperventilate which puts more strain on the heart muscles, leading to chest pain.

Although the cause of the chest pain doesn’t come from the heart, the panic attack can affect the function of the heart.

The Primary Care Companion journal says that about one-quarter of patients who have chest pains are suffering from a panic attack. The journal says that panic attacks can put pressure on the heart muscles and cause blood pressure to rise. Also, hyperventilation during a panic attack can sometimes cause small painful spasms in the heart muscle. This can cause myocardial ischemia and cardiac chest pain. You may also have symptoms of angina.9

Fortunately, panic attacks can be treated and usually when the feeling of panic goes away, so do the chest pains. To find out natural ways to cope with stress and anxiety naturally, please read my article on natural remedies for stress. There are also other signs that you could be suffering from stress. Some of these are digestive problems, weight gain, mood swings, and high blood pressure.

Costochondritis

Costochondritis is an inflammatory condition that can cause sharp chest pains. The pain is caused by inflammation in the joints between your ribs and breastbone. Usually, the pain will be localized but it can radiate to your back or abdomen. You can tell that this is not cardiac pain because pressing on the breastbone reproduces the pain.

According to Dr. William Shiel Jr. on eMedicineHealth.com, there are many causes for chest pain caused by costochondritis. It can be due to a viral or bacterial infection or be a symptom of arthritis. Usually, the pain will resolve itself without treatment.10

If you experience trouble breathing or notice redness and swelling around your ribs and have a fever, you should visit your doctor because the infection may be spreading.

Psoriatic arthritis

Many people with psoriasis also develop a condition called psoriatic arthritis which can cause chest pains. This arthritic condition causes inflammation in many of your joints. If psoriatic arthritis affects the cartilage in your chest, you might also experience chest pain and shortness of breath.11

Other Causes of Chest Pain

Some of the other causes of chest pains and pain under the ribs that aren’t heart-related are:

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources:

  1. WebMD. The heart.
  2. NHLBI. What is a heart attack?
  3. WebMD. Heart attacks and heart disease.
  4. HealthClevelandClinic. Women: Don’t ignore these 3 subtle heart attack signs.
  5. MayoClinic. Angina.
  6. HealthHarvard. Is your chest pain a heart attack or something else?
  7. MayoClinic. Chest pain.
  8. WebMD. Understanding GERD.
  9. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2002; 4(2): 54–62.
  10. eMedicineHealth. Costochondritis.
  11. WebMD. Psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
  12. WebMD. 6 Symptoms of Women’s Heart Attacks
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