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How To Differentiate Between Heartburn And Heart Attack

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Q: Are Heartburn And Acid Reflux The Same Thing What About Gerd

How can I tell the difference between heartburn and a heart attack?

A: They are different but related. It starts with the esophagus. The esophagus is made up of predominantly smooth muscle. It extends from the throat down through the chest cavity and, when it gets past the abdomen, joins up with the stomach. When you swallow, the esophagus opens and then squeezes food down.

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At the very bottom of theesophagus, there is a valve that separates it from the stomach. That valve shouldnormally be closed. When you swallow, it opens so that food can pass through,and then it closes again. Acid reflux is a disorder that occurs when that valveopens when its not supposed to, so stomach contents can flow backward from the stomach into the esophagus and causesymptoms.

Now, normal individuals can have up to an hour of reflux per day and not feel it. But if people have problematic reflux, it can cause heartburn, which is a burning thats felt mid-chest, below the sternum, especially after meals or at night when you lie down. So heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. Acid reflux can also cause regurgitation.

GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Its a more severe form of acid reflux where the stomach contents flowing back up into the esophagus becomes problematic. It can also cause a cough or the feeling that theres a lump in the back of your throat.

How Do Doctors Diagnose A Heart Attack And Heartburn

Most people with heartburn are diagnosed by their symptoms that they describe to their primary care doctor. However, definitive diagnosis of heartburn may be made by endoscopy and pH probe data, which is frequently done by gastroenterologists. However, it is common practice for doctors to rule out heart attack or any other pending cardiac problem to make sure the individual is not suffering from a potentially life-threatening problem.

The two main tests to diagnose heart attack are an EKG and a test to determine the level of certain enzymes in the blood . Additional tests for a heart attack can be done by echocardiogram, chest X-rays, coronary catheterization , and exercisestress tests.

Heartburn Treatment

The treatment for heartburn is varies with the severity of the disease that causes heartburn. Some people can treat heartburn with diet modifications, for example, avoiding acid causing foods such as chocolate, caffeine, spicy foods, carbonated drinks and citrus.

People with mild heartburn may only need only antacids over-the-counter occasionally, for example, Tums or Rolaids to relieve heartburn symptoms.

Moderate to more severe heartburn disease may require histamine receptor antagonists , protein pump inhibitors that reduce stomach acid production, for example, esomeprazole or omeprazole , or even surgery .

Heart Attack Treatment

Heartburn Or Heart Attack

The symptoms of heartburn may mimic those of angina or a heart attack . If you’re uncertain, don’t hesitate to get to an emergency room for an evaluation as soon as possible.


  • Tightness, pressure, squeezing, stabbing, or dull pain, most often in the center of the chest

  • Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, or arms

  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat

  • Cold sweat or clammy skin

  • Lightheadedness, weakness, or dizziness

  • Nausea, indigestion, and sometimes vomiting

  • The appearance of symptoms with physical exertion or extreme stress


  • Burning chest pain that begins at the breastbone

  • Pain that moves up toward your throat but doesn’t typically radiate to your shoulders, neck, or arms

  • Sensation that food is coming back into your mouth

  • Bitter or acidic taste at the back of your throat

  • Pain that worsens when you lie down or bend over

  • The appearance of symptoms after a large or spicy meal

Read Also: End Stage Coronary Artery Disease

Is It Heartburn Or Heart Attack How To Handle Similar Symptoms

The symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease , sometimes referred to as heartburn, and a heart attack are extremely similar. Unfortunately, mistaking the two can be deadly. This makes knowing the difference between heartburn and a heart attack necessary knowledge. Additionally, knowing how to address the on-set of symptoms for either condition could be life-saving.

Many people think only of chest pain when it comes to symptoms of a heart attack, but the truth is there are other warning signs to be aware of. Pressure radiating into the jaws or arms, usually paired with cold sweats, nausea and vomiting are all common symptoms of heart attacks, says Sherri DeLashmit, Director of Cardiovascular Services at Baptist Memorial Hospital North Mississippi. Pain can radiate through the back as well. in women, it may just be a feeling of impending doom.

Symptoms of GERD

Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • Chest pain
  • Changes to voice

What You Can Do When Symptoms Are Present

How Baptist Can Help

At Baptist Memorial Health Care, we know that assuming the symptoms youre experiencing are tied to GERD can be life-threatening if wrong. For this reason, we offer minimally invasive cardiac diagnostics to determine if the heart is the problem or not. We have an array of studies to determine if there are any problems with your heart, as well as testing to determine if you have problems with your esophagus or stomach, says Bland.

Not Sure If What Youre Feeling Is A Heart Attack Or Heartburn

4 Ways to Tell the Difference Between Heartburn and a ...

I tell my patients that if you belch and the symptoms go away, it probably isnt related to your heart but to your esophagus, Bauman said. But if you have shortness of breath or sweating, then its likely a heart-related issue.

However, everyone is different, and not all symptoms are caused by one or the other, so:

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Differences Between Strained Chest Muscle And Cardiac Pain Angina

Musculoskeletal chest pain tends to be quite different from worrisome heart pain, says Alvaro Waissbluth, MD, an Ohio-based heart surgeon board certified in interventional cardiology and cardiovascular diseases, and founder of Eat Tank, an educational nutrition initiative that provides simple tools and practical knowledge for better understanding food.

Dr. Waissbluth continues, Musculoskeletal chest pains almost always change with physical movement of the chest wall either from breathing or moving ones arms or body.

This causes tension on the actual muscles or tendons or ligaments or joints that are inflamed and makes them hurt.

This is a hallmark feature of chest muscle soreness.

Like any sore or strained muscle, the pain will fluctuate or be aggravated with movement.

Also, musculoskeletal chest pains are often fleeting lasting a few seconds at most and go away when the movement is over. Angina doesnt last for three seconds.

Pay attention to your movements.

What motions did you carry out just before that fleeting chest pain?

The offending motion could have even been committed while you were seatedsimply twisting in your chair, pressing a hand against the armrest, may be all it takes to buzz the strained chest muscle.

They are rarely accompanied by other symptoms and typically dont radiate anywhere else, says Dr. Waissbluth, referring to musculoskeletal pain.

Take an exaggerated exhalation or inhalation to see if either bring out the discomfort.

Heartburn Or Heart Attack How To Tell The Difference

Chest pain can be scary. And its not always easy to tell the difference between heartburn and a heart attack especially since heartburn-like symptoms can be from a heart attack. Columbus Batiste, MD, an interventional cardiologist and chief of cardiology at Kaiser Permanentes Riverside and Moreno Valley Medical Centers in Southern California, breaks down the symptoms and details the importance of knowing if youre at risk for heart disease.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is discomfort or pain that occurs when food and stomach acid back up into the esophagus the tube that leads from the throat to the stomach.

Common indicators of heartburn include:

  • A burning sensation in the chest or stomach
  • Foul breath and a sour, acidic, or metallic taste in the mouth
  • Increased gas or belching
  • Coughing, especially when lying down
  • Symptoms start after eating or lying down

You should be able to relieve your symptoms by taking an antacid, like Tums or Rolaids, or by drinking a glass of water with a spoonful of baking soda stirred in it. If heartburn is keeping you from sleeping, propping yourself up in bed can help.

Contact your doctor for advice if an antacid doesnt temporarily ease your symptoms, this is the first time youve had heartburn, or your symptoms have changed.

Heart attack signs can vary greatly

  • Back discomfort
  • Lightheadedness

Silent heart attacks are common

Another cause of chest pain

Risk factors for heart disease

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Heart Attack Vs Heartburn Symptoms

While heart attacks and heartburn can both cause chest pain, only the former actually concerns your heart. Heart attacks most commonly occur when blood flow to the heart is somehow blocked. This most often occurs due to the buildup of plaque in the arteries or the presence of a blood clot. In contrast, heartburn is caused by stomach acids flowing back up into the esophagus and can cause chest pain that may radiate through to the neck, throat, and jaw. Below are the most common symptoms associated with each condition to help you differentiate between them.

Heart attack: These are often accompanied by a dull, tight, or full feeling in the chest. Pain can spread to the neck, shoulders, and arms, and victims may also experience lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and cold sweats. The pain associated with heart attacks usually lasts for a few minutes before slowly fading and can sometimes be lessened by sitting or ceasing any strenuous activity.

Heartburn: Heartburn is characterized by a sharp or burning pain in the chest that may move upwards into the throat and jaw. It may increase when bending over or laying down. A bitter or sour taste at the back of your throat and the feeling that food is coming back up are both common symptoms.

Symptoms Of A Heart Attack

How to tell the difference between a heartburn and a heart attack

Heart attacks often but not always happen with classic symptoms:

  • chest pain that is often described as pressure, squeezing, heaviness, tightness, fullness, or ache
  • chest pain that feels like a very heavy weight crushing against the chest
  • pain may come and go, but lasts for more than a few minutes

Not all heart attacks give the same symptoms. Symptoms can be mild or severe, and some people experience no symptoms at all.

The chest pain or discomfort is usually central or central-left, but it might not be. The pain may spread to other areas. It can affect one or both arms, the neck, jaw, or upper or mid-back.

Heart attack often comes with other symptoms:

  • breaking out in a cold sweat
  • being short of breath
  • feeling very tired or lacking in energy
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded

People who may be less likely to experience symptoms when having a heart attack include older people and those with diabetes. These people may still show other symptoms though, such as breathlessness.

Read Also: Chronic Systolic Heart Failure: Life Expectancy

Factor #: The Type Of Pain Being Experienced

The type of pain that is associated with a heart attack can be best described as one that is constant and feels tight and pressured while remaining stable even during rest. Alternatively, the chest pain that occurs during GERD is described as one similar to a burning sensation or intense stabbing pain that pools right under the skin as a result of leaking acid moving upwards.

How Do Different Gastrointestinal Issues Affect Your Heart

Gastrointestinal issues that indicate a heart condition include:

  • Intestinal ischemia: Clogged gut arteries due to build-up of plaque.
  • Chronic atrial and intestinal dysrhythmia is a disorder that impairs the peristalsis that moves food through the intestines causing intestinal pseudo-obstruction.
  • Changes or alterations in the gut microbial community have been linked with the progression of atherosclerosis, heart failure, and other cardiovascular diseases.
  • A muscle spasm in your oesophagus or pain in the gall bladder can cause chest pain similar to that of a heart attack.
  • Epigastric pain is defined as pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. Though epigastric pain can be caused by conditions related to digestion, such as peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, acid reflux etc, it can also be a symptom of an impending heart attack. Evidence suggests unexplained chest/epigastric pain in patients with normal endoscopy is a strong predictor of heart attacks and increases mortality.
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    What You Need To Know About Heartburn

    • Heartburn is something of a misnomer. Its caused by stomach acid rising up into your esophagus and has nothing to do with your heart.
    • If you belch and the symptoms go away, the discomfort you feel is likely related to your esophagus not your heart.
    • Heartburn can cause chest pain that radiates to your neck, throat, or jaw.

    If you even think youre having a heart attack, you need to take immediate action, just like Clark did.

    Dont tough out heart attack symptoms for more than five minutes. Call 911 or other emergency medical services for help, the Mayo Clinic writes on its website.

    Too often, guys have this male pride thing where theyre foolish about their health. Clarks episode was a false alarm, but what if it hadnt been? If he sat quietly and didnt say anything, it could have been curtains.

    When somethings not right, dont quietly keep it your own secret. Besides, whens the last time you were at the doctor anyway??

    Take care of yourself, guys. If youre not doing it, call upon the lady in your life to motivate you to do so. Women, push your guys to go to the doctor to take care of themselves. Never keep things a secret, because you want to be alive to wake up the next day!

    There are some things you can do to keep the heartburn away.

  • Stay away from alcohol, cigarettes, aspirin/anti-inflammatories and citrus , Bauman advised.
  • Some over-the-counter medications can also help.
  • See your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
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    How To Tell The Difference Between A Heart Attack And Heartburn

    Chest Discomfort? How to Know if Its Serious

    If youve ever finished a meal and began to experience chest pain, you might have found yourself wondering if it were simply heartburn or an impending heart attack. Hopefully, it wasnt the latter. However, the signs and symptoms of heartburn and heart attack can often be similar. Whether you currently suffer from frequent heartburn or believe you may be at risk for a heart attack, knowing how to tell the difference between a heart attack and heartburn could save your life.

    Learn How to Tell the Difference Between a Heart Attack and Heartburn

    Tips & Warnings

    • Dont ignore the warning signs of a heart attack in the hope that it may only be heartburn. If in doubt, call 911 immediately.
    • Be particularly diligent about recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack if you are at high risk or have had a heart attack before.

    Recommended Reading: Esophageal Palpitations

    Heartburn And Heart Attack Pain Can Be Similar Learn The Difference

    Youre relaxing at home after a delicious meal. You notice you dont feel quite right. You have an upset stomach. There is a burning sensation in your chest area.

    Is it heartburn from indigestion? Could it be a heart attack?

    Chest discomfort is the most common symptom of a heart attack, which can be life-threatening. But it can also be a sign of heartburn, which has nothing to do with the heart and is a common symptom of indigestion.

    It can sometimes be difficult to tell one from the other. Learning the difference can help you protect your heart health and know when to seek medical attention.

    If youre not sure if its heartburn or a heart attack, and your chest pain is persistent seek medical help right away, says Kiyon Chung, MD, a Scripps cardiologist. You will be checked immediately to rule out a heart attack. If your chest pain turns out to be a heart attack, doctors will work to lessen any heart damage.

    If its indigestion, youll want to make sure it doesnt become a chronic problem. You may be able to find quick relief taking an over-the-counter antacid or other medication.

    What is indigestion?

    Heartburn is a symptom of indigestion or acid reflux. It happens when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, the food pipe that connects the throat to the stomach. This backflow causes a burning feeling or pain in the chest. Another symptom is regurgitation, which is when food rises in the back of the throat.

    What is a heart attack?

    Symptoms of heart attack

    What Is Heartburn What Is A Heart Attack

    Heartburn is a symptom, and usually feels like a burning sensation in the chest, under the sternum, and in the esophagus that can extend to the neck, throat, and/or face. Heartburn often is caused by a malfunction in the esophageal sphincter muscle , which causes regurgitation of acid from the stomach into the esophagus.

    Heartburn is a misnomer because it does not involve the heart. Other names for heartburn include indigestion, dyspepsia, acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease , pyrolysis, and even “cardialgia.”

    A heart attack often is a sudden and sometimes fatal occurrence of coronary thrombosis that frequently produces chest pain and/or additional pain that may radiate to the neck, jaw, and/or arms. Heart attacks involve the heart and not the esophagus or acid regurgitation.

    Because the esophagus and heart are located near each other, many people consider pain in that region as a sign of either heartburn or a heart attack. However, individuals may often not know how to tell heartburn from a heart attack.

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