Is there a test that can tell if you've had previous heart attacks?

Sherri asked...

I just read the 7 heart attack symptoms in women compared to men. I have encountered chest pain at least 3 or 4 times in this past year. The last time was fairly recently but the pain was more intense in my right jaw, neck and ear. Each episode of pain will last about 20 minutes or so. I never went to the hospital or called my doctor because I thought for a heart attack, the pain would be more dominant in the chest and on the left side of the body. My question is, could have these have been mild heart attacks? I have to say the pain gets pretty intense and it does scare me. I would also like to know is there a test that shows if you have had past heart attacks? After reading the information on heart attacks in women, I definitely will go to the hospital if it ever happens again!

Expert Answer

Carolyn Strimike, N.P. and Margie Latrella, N.P. are cardiac nurse practitioners specializing in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. They have over 40 years of nursing experience in Cardiology between them. The main goal of their work is to counsel, motivate and empower women to adopt healthy lifestyle choices.

Glad to hear you plan to go to the hospital if this ever happens again. The pain you have experienced in the past could be related to heart problems and should be evaluated. You may have been experiencing angina which is a warning sign of an impending heart attack. A heart attack causes permanent muscle damage and there are tests to identify past heart attacks. Some of the tests that may help identify past heart attacks include: electrocardiogram (ECG), nuclear stress test and an echocardiogram. You should discuss your symptoms and risk factors with your healthcare provider to determine which test would be appropriate for you. Do not wait - get it checked out! When you are experiencing chest pain your body is telling you "something" is not right and you need to pay attention.