How to Tell the Difference Between a Heart Attack and Heartburn

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Tell the Difference Between a Heart Attack and Heartburn
Tell the Difference Between a Heart Attack and Heartburn

How to Tell the Difference Between a Heart Attack and Heartburn. If you've 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 wasn't 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

Understand that heartburn is a symptom, not a disease in itself. Heartburn is characterized by pain or a burning sensation in the center of the chest and acid reflux. Frequent or severe heartburn may be an indication of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and requires medical attention.

Know that heartburn is caused by a malfunctioning of the lower esophageal sphincter, which allows partially digested food and stomach acid to return or "splash" back up through esophagus. There is usually a bad taste left in the mouth and a burning sensation in the throat. This does not occur during a heart attack.

Be aware that one key difference between a heart attack and heartburn is a persistent feeling of tightening or crushing in the center of the chest as opposed to a momentary burning sensation. This pain isn't alleviated by changing body position and lasts longer than a typical bout of heartburn.

Know that pain associated with a heart attack often radiates from the center of the chest to the left arm, both arms, shoulders, back, neck or jaw. This is always an indication that you should seek medical attention immediately.

Pay attention to symptoms of nausea. While both heartburn and heart attack can present with nausea, there is a way to tell the difference between them. With heartburn, the nausea is usually short-lived and the result of stomach upset. In a heart attack, however, nausea is often accompanied with dizziness, difficulty breathing and profuse sweating. This is because a heart attack causes the body to respond on a variety of levels due to being in a state of crisis.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't 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.

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