This article was medically reviewed by Raj Dasgupta, M.D., an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board, on January 21, 2021.

There it is: that discomfort in your chest. It’s probably from the pizza you just inhaled. But wait—it is chest pain. In the moment, it’s not a giant leap from pass the Tums to Oh no,could it be my heart?

Well, yeah, it could, and you absolutely need to rule it out (more on that below). But the odds are also very good that it’s something else and not life-threatening.

“Many of the nerves in our chest are shared by the organs there: the skin in the front and the back of the chest, the bones, the muscles, the esophagus, and the lungs,” says Karol Watson M.D., Ph.D, attending cardiologist and professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of the Prevention Medical Review Board. “You can’t know just by a pain in your chest what it is, which is why you want to rule out the things that’ll kill you.”

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