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Are you having a Heart Attack or is it Heartburn?

Senior Woman with chest pain

Important: At the first sign of unusual chest discomfort or chest pain, especially if the pain is sudden and severe, do not hesitate to seen emergency care or call 911.  Self-diagnosis can be dangerous.

The symptoms of heart attack and heart burn can be eerily similar. Most people will stop in their tracks at the first sign of chest discomfort.  “Am I having a heart attack?” is always the question that comes to mind.   

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn is the term used for the burning sensation caused by the rising of food and acid from the stomach back up into the food pipe and throat.  This is called acid reflux.   The pain and discomfort from an acid reflux episode is not related to the heart.  The discomfort typically happens above the stomach area and up into the throat.  Other symptoms may include belching, a feeling of bloating, and nausea.

  • Heartburn usually occurs after eating certain foods
  • Heartburn usually occurs after laying down immediately after eating a heavy meal
  • Antacids usually relieve heartburn pain
  • Heartburn doesn’t cause dizziness, breathlessness, or radiating pain

You should never assume that repeated episodes of heartburn are not related to your heart.  Some people have reported having a burning sensation in their chest and upper stomach area after rigorous exercise and had assumed it was acid reflux, only to find out that they had other symptoms related to heart disease.

Are You Having a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when there is a loss of blood supply to part of the heart.  Usually caused by coronary artery disease, a heart attack can stop your heart from beating – which is called cardiac arrest.

Symptoms of a heart attack may be different in men and women, and not everyone will have the same symptoms.  Some of the more usual symptoms include:

  • Chest pain – a pressure, heaviness, tightness, ache, sometimes severe, sometimes mild
  • Chest weight – the feeling of heavy weights or pressure on the chest.
  • Radiating pain – pain felt in the left arm, neck, jaw line, or between the shoulder blades
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat and paleness
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Angina

It’s time to call 911 immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Chest pain such as squeezing, pressure, or aching
  • Cold sweat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Jaw pain, arm pain, back pain, stomach pain
  • What to do if you think you are having a heart attack
  • Call 911 immediately
  • Chew a normal dose of Aspirin (325 milligrams)
  • If you are alone at home and are able to, unlock your front door and lay down near it so the EMS team can get to you quickly.

Living a healthy lifestyle to help reduce your heart attack risk factors is important. Talk to your doctor about your health, get your blood pressure and cholesterol tested, stay active, and eat a health well balanced diet.   

This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor.  It is not intended to be used as either a diagnoses or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation.  If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).

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