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Difference Between Heartburn And Heart Problems

How Do Doctors Diagnose A Heart Attack And Heartburn

Heartburn vs. heart attack – what you need to know

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

    Doctors Can Confuse Heartburn And Heart Disease Even In Themselves

    Most people are pretty good judges of whats going on with their own bodies. But telling a heart attack from other causes of chest pain is tough stuffeven, it turns out, for highly trained doctors. Thats why I thought this personal story, written by a Harvard doctor who has heart disease, would make an interesting read. Its an excerptthe full version can be found in Heart Disease: A guide to preventing and treating coronary artery disease, an updated Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

    Early one spring, I noticed a burning sensation high in my abdomen whenever I walked up a hill or worked out on the treadmill. I felt perfectly healthy otherwise. I had lots of energy and could do high-level exercise on the treadmillonce the burning sensation went awaywithout becoming short of breath. I thought it was just heartburn, so I started taking powerful acid-suppressing pills. They didnt help.

    Sometimes when I would feel the burning in my chest, I would remember an old saying to the effect that A doctor who takes care of himself has a fool for a patient. Still, I hesitated I didnt want to waste the time of a cardiologist if all I had was heartburn.

    What Are Heart Attack Signs

    Typical heart attack symptoms include:

    • Pressure, tightness, pain or a squeezing/aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
    • Nausea or abdominal pain
    • Fatigue
    • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness

    For both men and women, the most common symptom of a heart attack is chest discomfort.

    Women usually experience some of the additional signs, such as jaw or back pain, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should take steps to get checked out right away.

    Recommended Reading: Simple Home Remedies For Heartburn

    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.

    When Should You See A Doctor For Heartburn

    Difference Between Heartburn and Angina

    Heartburn is common and is usually treated by avoiding triggers of heartburn, with home remedies, or with over-the-counter medications like antacids or acid blockers. However, severe, and frequent heartburn episodes can sometimes cause serious health issues like inflammation of the oesophagus, gastroesophageal reflux disease , respiratory problems, persistent cough, and Barrett’s oesophagus .

    Consult your doctor if:

  • You find it hard to swallow
  • You are losing weight without even trying
  • Your heartburn is persistent despite taking antacids for more than two weeks or longer
  • Your heartburn or chest discomfort interferes with your regular activities.
  • Recommended Reading: Will Baking Soda Relieve Heartburn

    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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    Do Women Get The Same Symptoms

    Women, particularly pre-menopausal women, also dont necessarily present with heart attacks in that chest clutching way you see in movies. In fact, a study published in the journal Circulation found only 30% of women had traditional chest pain symptoms, and in many cases it was more of an ache than a pain.

    Instead, they had symptoms such as shortness of breath, weakness, nausea, stomach upset or back pain, which is extremely hard to diagnose as a heart attack. Extreme fatigue in the month before the attack was found to be the most common symptom if you suddenly find you cant do normal tasks, like make a bed without needing a rest, see a doctor urgently.

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    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

    • Feeling clammy

    • 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.

    Worried About Your Heartburn

    The #1 difference between Heartburn and GERD/GORD

    Find a primary care provider to answer your questions.

    If youre concerned that the burning in your chest is more than an antacid can handle, dont hesitate to see your doctor. If youve never had heartburn and youre older, seeing your primary care doctor is the right thing to do, says Sauer.

    If you have taken antacids for what you believe is reflux and the reflux is not going away, Its really a no-brainer to make sure its not the heart first, advises Patterson.

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    Other Causes Of Chest Pain

    Heart attack and heartburn arent the only causes of chest pain, but they are some of the most likely ones. Other potential symptoms include:

    • Anxiety attack. Severe bouts of anxiety can cause panicked feelings that may make you feel as if youre dying. Other symptoms include shortness of breath and intense fear.
    • Esophageal muscle spasm. Some people have an esophagus that tightens or spasms. If this occurs, a person can have pain and discomfort, such as chest pain.
    • Gallbladder pain. The gallbladder is responsible for releasing bile that the body uses to digest fats. It can become blocked or diseased, causing symptoms like pain in the shoulders, arms, and neck as well as nausea and vomiting.
    • Pleurisy. This condition is an inflammation of the tissues in the chest wall, often due to intense coughing or inflammation from an infection.

    How Can You Tell The Difference Between Heartburn And A Heart Attack

    First things first: if youre in pain or you simply arent sure if the physical discomfort or pain youre experiencing is serious, get medical attention immediately. Its always best to err on the side of caution and have a healthcare professional evaluate the situation. Bearing that in mind, it may be helpful to keep in mind that heartburn usually strikes after eating and that it can cause a sour or acidic taste to develop in your mouth. If your game day involves eating an array of foods outside of your norm and lying on the couch, you may be setting yourself up for a bad case of heartburn. However, research has also shown that the food free-for-all that typically occurs on Super Bowl Sunday can also cause problems and raise the risk for people prone to heart trouble.

    While its difficult to distinguish between heart attack and heartburn, there are steps you can take to prevent heartburn in the first place. Eating and drinking in moderation will help prevent this, but for some people, even a single buffalo wing can trigger the burn. If you know you struggle with heartburn, beat the temptation by bringing your own healthy game day snack or altering your recipes by swapping out common triggers with more soothing options.

    Recommended Reading: What Does Bad Heartburn Mean

    Does Everyone Get The Same Heart Attack Symptoms

    No and this is when things get complicated. About 10% of people get an atypical presentation where they feel chest pain but its not bad enough to immediately seek help, says consultant interventional cardiologist Dr Kamal Chitkara of BMI The Park Hospital in Nottingham. This is particularly common in people with diabetes where the nerves can sometimes alter sensation so pain isnt felt as acutely.

    Those who have had slowly progressing heart disease also dont always get a severe pain. Dr Archbold says, If youve had a progressive narrowing of the arteries, your body will actually create new channels, called collaterals, through which blood flows. During a heart attack when that narrowed artery finally blocks the collaterals still work, reducing your symptoms such as chest pain.

    About Ut Health Austin

    Heart Disease Or Heartburn

    UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at or request an appointment here.

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    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 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 for 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

    Recommended Reading: Best Heartburn Acid Reflux Medicine

    What Happens When You Have Heartburn

    While its name suggests otherwise, heartburn has no impact on your heart.

    Heartburn, or acid indigestion, happens when your stomach acid flows back into your esophagus. It causes an uncomfortable burning feeling or pain in your chest that can move up to your neck and throat.

    The esophagus is located close to the heart, so its often difficult for people to distinguish where the pain is coming from, Dr. Abdallah says.

    This is why its important for a doctor to rule out a heart attack if over-the-counter antacids dont work or if you experience the less pronounced symptoms, he says.

    If left untreated, heartburn can cause more serious problems such as inflammation and narrowing of the esophagus, respiratory problems, chronic cough or even cancer.

    The good news: Several types of over-the-counter medicines are available to treat heartburn.

    Difference Between Heart Attack And Heartburn Causes

    How to tell a heart attack from indigestion?

    Just as the symptoms differ, the causes of heart attacks also vary from the causes of heartburn. Heart attacks are commonly caused by coronary heart diseasewhere arteries become clogged with cholesterol and prevent blood from flowing into the heartas well as blood clots, hypoxia due to carbon monoxide poisoning, and the abuse of drugs. In contrast, heartburn occurs due to the issues with the lower esophageal sphincter that cause it to be unable to tighten properly, allowing stomach acid through to the esophagus. This issue occurs most often because of over eating, or pressure put on the stomach due to obesity or pregnancy. Certain foods such as tomatoes, coffee, alcohol, and garlic may also increase the likelihood of experiencing heartburn as they can relax the lower esophageal sphincter.

    Read Also: Best Thing To Get Rid Of Heartburn

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

    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.


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