Heartburn Or Heart Attack: Seeking Help
When it comes to chest pain, it is always best to be cautious. If your symptoms are severe or are worrying you for any reason, seek medical attention. It is better to be told by a doctor that you are not having a heart attack than to ignore symptoms and let your condition worsen. This especially applies to women, as they have an increased risk of heart disease.
While heart attacks and heartburn are two very different conditions, many people confuse them due to their similar symptoms. If you are experiencing discomfort in your chest and arent sure of the cause, the best course of action is always to seek medical attention. While heartburn is not serious and can subside without the use of medication, heart attacks can be fatal and cause lasting damage. It is important to seek treatment if you believe there is even the slightest chance that your chest pain is being caused by a heart attack.
Is Indigestion A Sign Of A Heart Attack
Angina is an early warning sign that your arteries are narrowing. Its primary symptom is chest pain so the first time you experience it, you may think youre having a heart attack.
Angina starts on exertion, but fades quickly with rest, says Dr Archbold. If your symptoms started when you were sitting still, dont reduce when you rest or dont stop after youve used your normal angina treatment, call an ambulance.
Indigestion also has very similar symptoms to a heart attack and may be the cause of your chest pain, particularly if youve had a very large or spicy meal in the hour before symptoms start. Even doctors cant always tell the difference without doing an EEG or a blood test, but its better to be safe than sorry, says Dr Archbold.
Signs That Heartburn Is A Warning Of Something More Serious
Heartburn is often not serious and will go away on its own or with over-the-counter medications. If you have heartburn that occurs with other symptoms, it could be a sign of a more serious problem. These symptoms may include:
Shortness of breath
Increased heart rate
If you have heartburn or chest pain with any of these symptoms, it is important to get immediate medical attention. This is because these symptoms could mean there is a more serious cause that requires urgent treatment.
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Is It Heartburn Or A Heart Attack
If youve ever shown up at the emergency department convinced youre having a heart attack only to discover it was a particularly bad case of heartburn, youre not alone.
The journal Circulation of the American Heart Association reports that there are more than 8 million visits to the emergency department every year for chest pain, but fewer than 5 percent end up being a serious heart condition.
If it makes you feel better, determining whether its really a heart attack can also be tricky for the professionals.
Although heartburn and a heart attack are very different, they feel alike in many ways, said Cardiology Fellow William Stoutt, DO, with Samaritan Cardiology – Corvallis. It can be difficult to determine the true cause of chest pain with just a description of symptoms, and we may need to use several tests to pinpoint a diagnosis.
If you arrive at the hospital and report chest pain, the emergency department will usually check an electrocardiogram. An EKG looks at the electrical activity of the heart and may show signs of heart muscle injury, such as a heart attack. You may also need a blood test that measures an enzyme called troponin, which can be seen when there is heart damage.
What To Do If You Have Chest Pain
If youre having chest pain that you think could be a heart attack, dont drive yourself to the emergency room. Always call 911 so you can get attention as quickly as possible.
Sometimes emergency medical personnel may advise a person to chew an aspirin . If you do have nitroglycerin tablets or a spray, using these until emergency medical personnel arrive may help to reduce symptoms.
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Is Your Pain Accompanied By A Runny Nose Coughing Sore Throat And Fever
Acute bronchitis can make your chest ache, a pain that worsens if you have a hacking cough. The condition occurs when your bronchial tubes become inflamed. Mucus builds up, leading to shortness of breath and feeling like you have a cold.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and ask you to rest and drink plenty of liquids to thin the mucus and keep your bronchial tubes lubricated. If symptoms continue longer than 10 days, consider getting a chest X-ray to determine whether your condition has turned into pneumonia or if there is another culprit causing your pain.
Heart Attack Vs Heartburn Complications
If left untreated or handled improperly, both conditions could lead to complications further down the line. Below are the most common complications associated with heart attacks and heartburn.
Heart attack: The damage that occurs as a result of a heart attack can lead to complications such as abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias, heart failure, heart ruptures, and valve problems. Most of these issues have the potential to become fatal, so it is imperative that all heart issues are checked as soon as possible.
Heartburn: Chronic heartburnGERDcan cause complications, including esophageal damage like inflammation, ulcers, and scarring. These conditions are known as esophagitis, esophageal ulcers, and esophageal stricture respectively. GERD can also cause Barretts esophagus, which is the development of precancerous cells in the gullet. It can also increase your risk of esophageal cancer, and cause tooth decay as the acid wears away at tooth enamel, leaving your smile weak and vulnerable to cavities.
Heartburn Vs Heart Attack Symptoms
To complicate things even more, angina/heart disease and heartburn share risk factors of being older or overweight.
Signs more typical of heartburn include:
- You have a sharp, burning feeling just below your breastbone or ribs.The chest pain can be accompanied by an acidic taste in your mouth, regurgitation of food, or a burning in your throat.
- Pain generally doesn’t spread to your shoulders, neck, or arms, but it can.
- Pain usually comes after meals, particularly after foods or drinks that trigger reflux in you.
- Pain also comes when you lie down or exercise on a full stomach.
- Symptoms usually get better quickly after taking an antacid.
- You rarely get a cold sweat or shortness of breath along with your other symptoms.
Do You Have Chest Pain And Discomfort
These are the most common symptoms of a heart attack, for both men and women, young and old. But there are other symptoms to look out for, as well. Women are more likely to experience shortness of breath a squeezing, aching or sharp pain in the chest or arms that may spread to the neck, back or jaw unexplained nausea, heartburn vomiting sweating fatigue irregular pulse
lightheadedness or sudden dizziness.
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Is It Heart Pain Or Just Heartburn
The signals our body sends us can be confusing. And if the signal is coming from your chest, the stakes are high is it my heart or is it just heartburn?
First and foremost, heres a good rule to follow: If in doubt, check it out. Its always better to be safe than sorry.
That said, there are some clues that can help discriminate between heart pain and simple heartburn:
NOTE: if you have regularly occurring heartburn, see your healthcare provider.
Could It Be Something Else Entirely
Heartburn and heart attacks arent the only conditions that can cause chest pain. Here are some other issues to look out for:
- Angina. This can happen if your heart doesnt get enough oxygen-rich blood. It can feel like a heart attack.
- Pleurisy. Inflamed lung or chest cavity tissue can result in chest pain and shortness of breath.
- Gallbladder pain. Your gallbladder releases digestive fluids your body uses to process fats. Gallbladder issues can result in abdominal, chest, arm, neck, or shoulder pain. You may also experience diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
- Esophageal muscle spasm. Sudden muscle movement in your esophagus can lead to a tight or painful feeling in your chest.
The Symptoms Of These Two Health Problems May Overlap And Sometimes So Do The Treatments
During your regular after-dinner walk around the neighborhood, you feel a painful sensation in the center of your chest. Could it be your heartburn flaring up again, or something more serious?
Heartburn is a common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease , often called acid reflux. Acid from the stomach bubbles up into the esophagus, causing a painful burning just behind the breastbone. Not surprisingly, it’s often mistaken for a heart attack. In fact, of the over eight million emergency room visits for chest pain each year, severe heartburn accounts for over half the cases in which actual heart problems are ruled out.
Chest pain caused by insufficient blood flow to the heart or a heart attack is often described as a feeling of tightness, constriction, or pressure, rather than a burning sensation . But it’s not always easy to tell the difference. “Chest discomfort brought on by exercise is more likely to be a heart-related problem,” says Dr. Michelle O’Donoghue, cardiovascular specialist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. But you can also have angina that’s not related to physical activity, she notes. If you have any symptoms you’re not sure about, see a doctor. And call 911 if you feel chest tightness, have trouble breathing, break into a sweat, turn pale, or become very weak.
GERD and heart disease are both common, and many people take medications to prevent or treat both conditions.
Is It A Heart Attack Or Just Heartburn
Brian M. Salata, M.D. contributes to topics such as Cardiology.
Deepak Singh, M.D. contributes to topics such as Cardiothoracic Surgery.
contributes to topics such as Cardiology.
Youve just polished off a large beef and cheese burrito and suddenly it hits: a burning sensation, right around your chest and your neck. Its heartburn, right? Or could this be something much more dangerous, like a heart attack?
Its easy to confuse the two because the symptoms can feel very similar, says Deepak Singh, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Depending on where the heart attack is happening, the type of pain can mimic heartburn and vice versa, he says.
That being said, if it is a heart attack, its critical that you address it ASAP. If a heart attack is treated promptly, the damage done to the heart muscle can be minimized or even totally avoided, says Brian Salata, M.D., internal medicine specialist at JFK University Medical Center. Time is critical if you are having a heart attack.
Keep in mind that the movie version of a heart attack and a real-life heart attack may look and feel very different. Add to that, heart attack symptoms can vary from person to person, including based on gender, and even from heart attack to heart attack.
So how do you know if its heartburn or a heart attack? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
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Common Symptoms Of Heartburn
If you’ve got a burning feeling in your chest just behind your breastbone that starts after you eat, it might be heartburn. The symptoms could last from a few minutes to several hours.
- Chest pain, especially after you bend over, lie down, or eat
- Burning at the back of your throat
- Fluid at the back of your throat that tastes hot, sour, acidic, or salty
- Long-term cough, sore throat, or hoarseness
Telling your doctor about these symptoms is usually all they need to make a diagnosis of heartburn. But they may ask you to take special tests to find out how severe the problem is or to keep an eye on your treatment.
When To See A Doctor For Heartburn
People who experience acid reflux should make an appointment to see a doctor if:
- the condition persists for some time
- food sticks in the throat
- there is difficulty eating
- there is blood in the stools
- there is difficulty breathing or swallowing
Persistent exposure to the stomach acid can cause damage to the esophagus.
Emergency doctors will consider the symptoms, examine the patient, and carry out some tests.
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Heartburn Or Heart Attack: Knowing The Signs
Differentiating simple heartburn from heart disease symptoms can be challenging. Sometimes, people may have a meal and then go out for a walk. In that situation, it can be difficult to tell the difference between reflux or heart disease, says Patterson.
Its hard because the symptoms might be similar, agrees Sauer. You may not be able to decipher them. It may even require an ECG or stress test to check if its your heart.
With reflux, patients may have a bitter taste in the mouth. With heart problems, there is no bitter taste in the mouth and no association with food, says Patterson. I would differentiate the symptoms in regard to meal vs. exercise, and acidic, funny taste in the mouth vs. none.
In addition to the time of occurrence and related activity, understanding your own potential risk factors for heart disease is also helpful. Age is an important risk factor for both men and women. A mans chance of a heart attack increases at around age 40. However, the increased risk occurs around menopause for women.
Other factors include gender and family history of premature coronary artery disease. These factors are not in our control, but there are many more controllable risk factors, reminds Patterson.
Major risk factors for heart disease that we can control include:
- Illegal drug use
But what about the pounding chest pain and collapse weve all seen in countless movies and TV shows? Isnt that how heart attacks are supposed to happen?
Do Heart Attacks And Heartburn Feel Similar
Although heartburn and heart attacks have different causes, they can feel similar. Both can cause chest pain and discomfort in the center of the chest, so it can be hard to distinguish between the two.
If you have a burning pain behind your breastbone that started after a spicy meal and otherwise you feel well, it is likely you have heartburn. Often, heartburn can be easily treated with over-the-counter antacids. If you try this and your symptoms go away, that is a good indicator they were caused by heartburn.
Many people also get heartburn more than once. So if you had heartburn in the past and experience the same symptoms again, it is likely another case of heartburn.
Angina and heart attacks can also cause a burning pain or discomfort in the chest, so it is important to notice other symptoms. For example, if you also feel short of breath or light-headed, it might be something more serious . If you are unsure about your symptoms, or if you have chest pain that feels different from what you had in the past, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you determine if your symptoms are from heartburn or a more serious cause.
It is important to know that heart attacks in women can have different symptoms. Women can have chest pressure and heaviness. But they may also have no chest pain at all. Instead, women may have nausea, fatigue, or lightheadedness that could be mistaken for another illness.
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How Do You Get Rid Of Heartburn That Won’t Go Away
Often, GERD symptoms occur because of diet or obesity. Eliminating carbonated beverages, caffeine, and fatty or spicy foods can help reduce the frequency of heartburn. Losing weight may also help. Some people may find relief with over-the-counter antacids, although they should not be considered a long-term solution.
Heartburn Or Heart Attack: When To Worry
Severe heartburn and heart attack can be hard to tell apart. Understand how they typically differ, and learn when to get immediate help.
Youve just eaten a big meal and feel a burning sensation in your chest. Heartburn, right? Probably, but theres a chance the chest pain is caused by reduced blood flow to your heart or an actual heart attack.
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