Alarmist scenario: A heart attack.
More likely cause: Muscle strain following exercise or heavy lifting, gastric reflux, heartburn, soreness that results from a bad cough, or lung irritation from an upper-respiratory infection.
Reality check: Heart attacks are relatively rare in people under the age of 45. The average age among women for a first heart attack is 70.
Rx: Because getting treatment within one hour of a heart attack increases the survival rate, experts say not to ignore intense chest pain that lasts for more than five minutes. “I’ve had female patients as young as 32 have heart attacks,” says cardiologist Richard Stein, the director of preventive cardiology at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City. If the pain lasts for more than five minutes, call 911.