Harvard Heart Letter

Understanding cardiovascular pain

What the location and severity reveals about your health.

If you're concerned about your heart, a sharp twinge in your chest may give you pause. If it's fleeting, it's probably nothing to worry about. But is that uncomfortable ache under your breastbone just heartburn—or a heart attack? It's often hard to tell. Understanding the underlying causes, symptoms, and duration of these two conditions—and others that cause similar sensations elsewhere in the body—can help you deal with the pain calmly and safely.

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