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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you to describe your chest pain and any other symptoms. Ideally, a family member or close friend should accompany you when you go for medical treatment. This person can help to provide your doctor with valuable information about your symptoms and medical history if you are unable to do so. It is also important to give your doctor a list of the names and dosages of the prescription and nonprescription medications that you are taking. If you don't have a list already prepared, just scoop the medicines into a nearby bag or purse and bring them with you to the hospital.

Your doctor will suspect that you are having a heart attack based on your symptoms, your medical history and your risk factors for cardiovascular disease. To confirm the diagnosis, he or she will do:

  • An electrocardiogram (EKG)

  • A physical examination, with special attention to your heart and blood pressure

  • Blood tests for serum cardiac markers chemicals that are released into the blood when the heart muscle is damaged

Additional tests may be needed, including:

  • An echocardiogram A painless test that uses sound waves to look at the heart muscle and heart valves.

  • Radionuclide imaging Scans that use special radioactive isotopes to detect areas of poor blood flow in the heart

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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