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Feb 3, 2011

Healthy Living gives advice on chest pains

Chest pain is a symptom that requires a medical check-out as soon as possible. It could very well be a sign that something is seriously wrong that can potentially lead to a heart attack or it be caused by heart disease. In this week’s edition of Healthy Living, there is expert advice on how to deal with chest pains.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Chest pain is usually one symptom that people don’t ignore. It is one of the most common reasons why people check in with their doctor.  According to cardiologist Dr Curtis Samuels his rule of thumb is that once there’s a pain experienced from the waist up, it should be investigated.


curtis samuels

Doctor Curtis Samuels, Caridologist

“The heart is a pump and blood flows through it. It basically contracts and squeezes and pushes that blood forward to the rest of the body. We’re not only talking about the blood that passes through the blood chambers but actually through the muscles that squeeze. These coronary arteries when they are blocked partially you end up getting chest pain.”

When the chest pain is linked to the heart the symptoms may vary.  The level of attentiveness we have of our bodies vary and therefore the experience can be very different for each individual.

Dr. Curtis Samuels

“Chest pain as we know is a very subjective thing. So I would never be able to say what the nature of your pain is only you can describe it. So I have seen every conceivable type of chest discomfort ranging from tightness – a squeezing sensation, a constricting – heaviness, a burning sensation, stabbing, pinching, one person told me he felt like an elephant have like a foot placed on his chest. So it’s like that heaviness but the descriptions are varied because you have from the range of intense chest discomfort to silent where there is absolutely no pain whatsoever.  Apart from those these are the people who are telling you that they are feeling a pain classically in the center of the chest or the left area. We call the precordium or the precordial area with a sensation of tightness or sharp pain and heaviness and there could be radiation of the pain to the neck and the lower jaw almost never the upper jaw but the lower jaw; radiation perhaps to the left arm or down to the fingers or radiation to the back.”

While there are many underlying conditions that can cause chest pain; the two most worrisome scenarios would be signs of heart disease or a heart attack. Dr Samuels explains how much Belizean’s are at risk for heart disease.

Dr. Curtis Samuels

“Those would be cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol. These are the established factors. There are other associated factors but the ones that have been established where there is a cause- effect relation are these. Here in Belize there are two very, very common conditions: hypertension and diabetes. And these two whether alone or in combination are very, very strong markers for heart disease especially when we look at ten plus years of having these conditions; especially if they are not properly controlled. so in Belize our gene pool is set in a way that many of our hypertensive patients if the high blood pressure goes unchecked then they can end up with an enlarged heart.”

He underscores the importance of persons with hypertension getting their pressure checked on a regular basis, Also, to be in tuned with our bodies and notice when things just don’t feel right. This can be very helpful in detecting Heart disease.

Dr. Curtis Samuels

“If you go and walk on a treadmill it is expected that you’ll have shortness of breath. You climb stairs and you don’t have the physical conditioning or you run up the stairs and you should have shortness of breath  but if you notice that you’re having shortness of breath while performing activities that ordinarily you would not normally have difficulty doing then  that is a warning sign. Another sign is palpitation or symptom rather, which is where you feel the heart skipping a beat or beating rapidly or you feel a heavier sensation as far as the force of the heartbeat. That’s another sign that could be related to heart disease.”

Dizziness, weakness and becoming easily fatigued (or tired) are very important symptoms to take not of as well.  These are also some of the symptoms exhibited at the onset of a heart attack.


Dr. Curtis Samuels

“If you feel a heaviness, a burning or a tightness or some uneasy sensation in your chest it ought to be checked out. Another telltale symptom is cold sweat. If you experience chest pain and having cold sweat then start to run. Get that person to a hospital very quickly.  Cold sweat or what we call diaphoresis is a very important symptom of heart disease especially if it’s combined with chest pain. if shortness of breath and cold sweat, also a bad sign first thing they ought to do is chew and aspirin, chew not swallow because the absorption is more rapid and get that person as quickly as possible to the hospital.”

At the initiation of this type of pain, it is not a time to as Belizeans say “grin & bear”, Dr Samuels stresses that the earlier the visit to the hospital, the better the chances for effective treatment.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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