You’ve experienced chest pains, but how can you tell if your condition is serious enough to visit a doctor? These questions will help you determine your next move.

Some people avoid doctors because they are afraid of getting bad news about their health. In many cases, an expert opinion can help you manage and eliminate pain and worry; it also can prolong your life if your condition is serious.

“Sometimes people are concerned about unexplained symptoms but may delay seeking attention and that can be a big mistake,” said Luanda Grazette, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a cardiologist at Keck Medicine of USC. “It is never too early to be evaluated for heart disease, but unfortunately you can wait too late.”

Here are some things you should consider:

Do you have high blood pressure?

If you are living with high blood pressure, you should know that if your numbers continue to increase, you should see your cardiologist. This is especially true if you are already on medicine to keep your pressure stabilized and low.

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Are you having heart pain?

Know the difference between heart pain and heartburn. An ongoing irregular pulse, pain that comes on with exercise or pain that comes with sweating, shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue and nausea are all reasons that you should consult with a cardiologist about your heart health.

Do you have a family history of heart problems?

Investigate your family’s history of heart disease and discuss it with your cardiologist. This knowledge could prevent you from experiencing a major heart issue or help you control and stabilize a heart condition before it worsens.

Do you have unexplained tension in your jaw or arms?

A heart attack often is accompanied by warning signs that include numbness and tingling in the jaw and arms. If there is no other explanation for these symptoms, you should visit a cardiologist to assess your risk.

Are you a smoker or do you have diabetes?

Answering yes to these questions — and experiencing chest pain — means that you have an increased risk for heart disease. Both smoking and diabetes reduce the flow of oxygen to your heart, which increases your blood pressure and heart rate and causes your blood to clot. A cardiologist can determine whether your condition can be controlled with medication and lifestyle changes or if surgery is required.

Denial is your greatest enemy. If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time to face your fear and visit a cardiologist.

 By Heidi Tyline King

Concerned about your heart? Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist at Keck Medicine of USC to assess your risk for a heart attack. If you are in the Los Angeles area, make an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting https://www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.