Pain in the heart

Heart pain occurs in many people. This pain is usually felt during exertion, inhaling, exhaling, stress or in combination with pain in the lungs. People sometimes think of a heart attack, but in practice this is not so bad. Chest pain has many causes, a few of which are discussed in this article. In case of acute chest pain that radiates to the left arm or shoulder, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea, it is better to consult a doctor immediately. Heart pain is often associated with a heart attack or myocardial infarction. Since 1998, the number of heart attacks and death rates has fallen dramatically, despite the growing population. This has to do with better and earlier detection and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. On average, 2 in 1,000 men will have a heart attack and 1.3 in 1,000 women. In addition, 2.8 out of 1,000 men develop angina pectoris, compared to 2 out of 1,000 women.

Pain in the heart when inhaling or exhaling

Pain in the heart when inhaling is common: pain when exhaling is sometimes also combined with inhaling. Deep breathing is often more painful, which is why many patients tend to breathe shallowly. The pain does not come directly from the heart but from the area around the heart. For example, a bruised or inflamed intercostal muscle can cause a lot of pain around the heart. Tietze’s syndrome can also cause this. Unfortunately, anyone can develop these conditions. Recovery can take months to years. Always visit a doctor if you have any complaints. This can determine whether treatment is necessary.


Chest or heart pain during exertion is often a sign of angina pectoris. Due to a narrowing, the heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen to do its work properly. Especially during exercise, the heart needs more oxygen to pump blood. When the heart lacks oxygen, a painful feeling occurs in the middle of the chest, and often also a feeling of pressure. A coronary artery is often narrowed. This can become clogged due to, for example, improper diet or smoking. When the coronary artery becomes completely blocked, we call it a myocardial infarction. When you stop exercising, the symptoms of angina pectoris will disappear. The symptoms of a heart attack do not disappear with rest and also last much longer. Sometimes chest pain is not immediately felt, but shortness of breath or dizziness. This could also be angina pectoris. The diagnosis can be made via an ECG or exercise test.

Pain during stress

Just like with exercise, the heart can also hurt during stress. Angina pectoris is also often a cause here. During times of stress, the heart pumps more blood through the body. When the heart muscle itself does not receive enough oxygen, chest pain and a feeling of pressure arise.
Another cause of heart pain during stress is unconscious muscle contraction. Stress increases muscle tension. This can be felt around the heart as a painful and oppressive feeling in the chest. This feeling often disappears when you breathe calmly and put your mind elsewhere. With prolonged stress, the muscles become so tense that it is difficult to relax them again. Sometimes medication is necessary to learn to relax again. With the help of therapy, one can learn to deal with stress. Hyperventilation can also cause heart pain. Hyperventilation involves breathing just a little too well: more oxygen is inhaled than carbon dioxide is exhaled. The result is a disruption of this balance, causing chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, tingling lips and fingers and feelings of anxiety. Hyperventilation often occurs during times of stress. With good guidance, hyperventilation can be controlled.

Heart and lungs are painful

This often causes a stabbing pain in the heart and lungs. This pain disappears again but can also return later. This may be more present during exertion. Sometimes there is pneumonia. This can be recognized by fever, shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing up green or yellow mucus. Pneumonia must be treated because in some cases it can be fatal. Pneumonia is often the result of a long-term or severe cold (virus), but it can also be caused by bacteria. Sometimes admission to hospital is necessary.
Sometimes it is unclear where exactly the pain comes from: the heart or the lungs. Pain in either one can radiate to other areas. Often the cause is inflammation or irritation that causes pain. Sometimes the cause is serious. A heart attack is often missed, especially in women, because the warning signs are different. Complaints such as fatigue, insomnia, shortness of breath, strange feeling in the stomach, pain between the shoulder blades, pain in the neck, dizziness, palpitations, sweating and a burning sensation under the breastbone can indicate an impending heart attack. If these complaints occur suddenly, consult a doctor, even if the complaints disappear and return later. Too many women die every year from untreated cardiovascular disease.

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