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How To Tell The Difference Between Heartburn And Chest Pain

Location Of Chest Pain

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

Cardiac chest pain and NCCP can both appear behind your breastbone, making it hard to distinguish between the two types of pain.

Chest pain involving the heart is more likely than reflux-related pain to spread to other parts of your body. These places include your:

  • arms, especially the upper part of your left arm
  • back
  • shoulders
  • neck

Chest pain stemming from GERD may affect your upper body in some cases, but its most often centered either behind your sternum or just underneath it in an area known as the epigastrium.

NCCP is usually accompanied by a burning behind your breastbone and may not be felt as much in the left arm.

Esophageal spasms are the tightening of the muscles around the food tube. They happen when acid reflux or other medical issues cause damage within the esophagus.

In turn, these spasms can cause pain in your throat and the upper area of your chest as well.

You may be able to tell what type of chest pain it is by assessing the type of pain youre feeling.

Common ways that people describe pain associated with heart disease include:

  • crushing
  • heavy like an elephant sitting on the chest
  • deep

NCCP, on the other hand, may feel sharp and tender.

People with GERD may have temporary, severe chest pain when taking a deep breath or coughing. This difference is key.

The intensity level of cardiac pain stays the same when you breathe deeply.

Muscle strains and GERD-related chest pain tend to feel better when you move your body.

Relief For Chest And Breast Pain

Some measures may be recommended for a healthy start toward comfort, including:

  • Avoiding strenuous activities
  • Applying an ice pack to the area throughout the day
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medications

Nevertheless, effectively treating chest and breast pain will depend on what is causing the discomfort. Speak with your doctor to develop a treatment plan for your specific case.

Differences Between Symptoms Of Heartburn And Heart Attack

It can sometimes be difficult to know if symptoms are due to a heart attack or heartburn. Doctors often find making a diagnosis based on symptoms alone difficult and rely on tests.

Sometimes even doctors can find their symptoms difficult to understand. A doctor at Harvard, for example, has told his story of heart disease.

He had a burning symptom in his upper belly whenever he exercised, but treatments for heartburn did not help.

It was not until he became breathless and unable to carry on that he sought medical help. Tests revealed heart disease that was close to causing a heart attack.

The main difference between symptoms is that:

  • Heartburn tends to be worse after eating and when lying down, but a heart attack can happen after a meal, too.
  • Heartburn can be relieved by drugs that reduce acid levels in the stomach.
  • Heartburn does not cause more general symptoms, such as breathlessness.
  • Heart attack does not cause bloating or belching, but these can happen with heartburn.

following symptoms should call 911 at once:

  • Chest pain or discomfort, such as pressure, squeezing, pain, or fullness that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back again
  • Pain or discomfort in other parts of the body, for example, one or both arms, back, jaw, neck, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, before or with chest discomfort
  • Cold sweat
  • Other signs: Feeling unusually tired

All these symptoms can affect both men and women, but:

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The Causes May Differ

Heartburn is caused by reflux of acidic stomach contents into the esophagus, where it causes irritation and burning. A muscular ring at the bottom of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter normally prevents reflux, but sometimes it fails to form a good seal. There are many foods that can trigger heartburn, such as fatty foods, spicy foods and alcohol — which is known to cause relaxation of the sphincter muscle. Common medications such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers also relax the lower esophageal sphincter and may contribute to heartburn.

When acid reflux is not the cause of indigestion or dyspepsia, often there is no other reason found — that is, there is no evidence of a disease or any visible harm to the tissues. However, some cases of dyspepsia do arise from specific illnesses, including: – stomach or intestinal ulcers or cancer – infection of the stomach with H. pylori bacteria – other conditions that cause inflammation of the stomach lining – hiatal hernia, a problem in which the stomach bulges into the chest cavity – problems with muscular contractions of esophagus and stomach – problems with the pancreas or the flow of bile – certain medications such as nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs

Like GERD, indigestion is often triggered by eating too much or too quickly, or by certain foods such as fatty foods or alcohol. Indigestion is also more likely to occur if you are feeling stressed or anxious.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Heart Attack

The Signs Related to Each Other to Determine Whether Its ...

Despite having similar symptoms to heartburn, the symptoms of a heart attack are quite unique:

  • Pain, pressure, or a squeezing sensation in your chest or arms that begins to spread to the neck, jaw, or back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Persistence or increasing intensity of symptoms over the course of several minutes

The symptoms of a heart attack often come on very quickly, as they are typically a result of a blockage within the coronary artery.

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When To See A Doctor

Occasionally, heartburn can be managed at home. GERD and LPR are more serious and should be checked out by a doctor. Not only will they help you get the treatment you need, but they will also see if there is any damage to your esophagus or throat.

A medical professional can help you prevent further damage. So, its a good idea to see a doctor if youve been experiencing any symptoms of GERD or LPR for several weeks.

Indigestion Doesn’t Always Involve Reflux

Indigestion conveys that a person is having unpleasant stomach symptoms, perhaps associated with his intake or a specific meal, but not necessarily so. Occasional heartburn from acid reflux is very common, so for many people who say they have indigestion, it’s likely they are referring to acid reflux symptoms. However, many possibilities other than acid reflux can make a person feel like there’s something wrong with their stomach. For some, the medical term dyspepsia is a better fit than heartburn for these symptoms. Dyspepsia is a burning discomfort in the stomach, sometimes likened to hunger pains — except that it occurs on a full stomach, too. Like acid reflux, dyspepsia may be accompanied by a variety of other symptoms, including belching, bloating and feelings of gassiness, nausea or fullness.

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What Is A Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when your coronary arteries dont supply enough blood and oxygen to the heart. This can result in chest pain that is commonly described as tightness, pressure, or constriction in the region, whereas heartburn typically results in more of a burning sensation. However, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two, which is why you should be on the lookout for other common symptoms of a heart attack, which include:

  • Pain that spreads into the arms, jaw, neck, or shoulders
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea

Not all of these symptoms will be present with every heart attack, and they can often vary in severity. While chest pain is the most common symptom and typically occurs with all heart attacks, women tend to develop these secondary symptoms heart attack symptoms more frequently than men.

What Does Heartburn Feel Like

Chest Pain. Is it GERD (acid reflux) or Heart Attack? How Doctors Think.

Symptoms of heartburn can include:

  • A feeling of burning, warmth, or pain in your chest that usually gets worse if you lie down or bend over
  • A sour taste in your mouth

In many cases, heartburn is not serious and can be relieved by avoiding certain foods or taking over-the-counter medicines, like antacids. But if you are pregnant or have heartburn on a regular basis, you should talk to your doctor about the best way to treat it. In some cases, frequent heartburn can be a symptom of a more serious digestive disorder.

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Can Other Things Cause Chest Pain

Not all pain in the chest is a heart attack though. A common type of chest pain is angina. Angina is a repetitive pain that usually lasts just a few minutes. Angina also occurs when the heart doesn’t receive an adequate supply of oxygen, but it differs from a heart attack in that angina attacks don’t permanently impair the heart.

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

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Whats The Difference Between Acid Reflux Heartburn & Gerd

DerrickonNovember 2, 2021

Do you remember those antacid commercials where someone is in a restaurant eating something decadent and suddenly clutches their chest and winces? It was a bit dramatic, but it stuck in my head. As someone who gets both heartburn and acid reflux, it can be difficult to tell the difference. Add in the potential for gastroesophageal reflux disease , and its a jumble of stress.

This article will help you decipher the difference between all three and learn some quick home remedies.

Look Beyond Chest Pain Symptoms

Heartburn or Heart Attack? How to Tell the Difference ...

When you have a heart attack, its because one of the coronary arteries that provide blood to the heart is blocked. The blockage obstructs the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart.

When you think of a heart attack, you may picture a person clutching their chest and collapsing from sudden, severe pain. But the symptoms of a heart attack often are much more subtle. This is especially true for women, Dr. Abdallah says.

A study by researchers at the University of British Columbia showed women are slightly less likely than men to experience chest pain during a heart attack.

Instead, they often suffer from subtle symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the arms, neck or jaw.
  • Sweating or cold sweat.
  • Feelings of fullness, indigestion or choking .
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, extreme weakness or anxiety.

People with diabetes who are having a heart attack often have atypical or minimal symptoms, Dr. Abdallah says. If you have diabetes, you should seek medical attention for even slight chest or stomach pain or discomfort.

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What Happens After A Heart Attack

When a heart attack does occur, the part of the heart that has gone without a blood supply is injured. The extent of damage depends on the size of the area that was nourished by the blocked artery and the length of time between injury and treatment.

The heart muscle heals from a heart attack by forming scar tissue, usually over the course of several weeks. Even though a part of the heart may have been injured, the rest of the muscle keeps on working. However, the damaged heart may be weaker and unable to pump as efficiently as before. Proper treatment and a change in lifestyle after a heart attack can limit or prevent further harm.

What Is The Prognosis For A Heart Attack And Heartburn

The prognosis for the majority of people with heartburn is good to excellent if they try to prevent any future problems. Severe heartburn has a reduced prognosis as it can lead to esophageal damage, Barretts esophagus, and/or inability to swallow due to stricture formation.

The prognosis of a heart attack may be good to fair if treated immediately however, the prognosis decreases if a large amount of heart muscle is damaged or destroyed during a heart attack. Complications of heart attacks include irregular heartbeat , heart valve damage, heart failure, additional heart attacks, and/or sudden death.

Complications occur more frequently after a person survives a heart attack. Complications occur less frequently after heartburn.

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How To Avoid Reflux

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

  • Stay away from alcohol, cigarettes, aspirin/anti-inflammatories and citrus , Bauman advised.
  • And if you experience heartburn at night, try giving gravity a hand. Raise the head of your bed on blocks so gravity can help keep your stomach contents down in the stomach, Bauman said.
  • Another possible remedy can be not to eat close to bedtime or late at night. When your stomach is full of food or busy digesting food, try letting it finish that work before heading to bed.
  • Some over-the-counter medications can also help.
  • See your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
  • Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.

    Worst Case Scenario With Heart Attacks And Heartburn

    How to tell a heart attack from indigestion?


    If its a one-off, youre in the clear. More frequent and you could be in trouble: Regular heartburn can be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease , which can lead to ulcers, hernias or diabetes, warns Dr Kevin Whelan, nutritional scientist at Kings College, London.

    Heart Attack

    Every 11 minutes a British man meets his maker by way of cardiac arrest, with one in three dying before reaching hospital: Fifty per cent of deaths occur within three to four hours of the first symptoms, so if youre in doubt, ring for an ambulance. says Whelan.

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    Gastroesophageal Reflux Vs Heart Attack

      Robert Burakoff, MD, MPH, is board-certified in gastroentrology. He is the vice chair for ambulatory services for the department of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, where he is also a professor. He was the founding editor and co-editor in chief of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

      Asking “what does acid reflux or heartburn feel like?” seems like a simple enough question. Usually, heartburn is said to feel like some level of discomfort in the chest area.

      Heartburn or acid reflux is a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease , but it’s typically not the only one. Also, some people who experience gastroesophageal reflux won’t ever have chest discomfort.

      Factor #: The Location Of The Chest Pain

      Generally, the chest pain associated with GERD and a heart attack is located right in the chest area. However, the exact location of where the pain comes from and where else it emanates is the differentiating factor in this equation.

      When it comes to acid reflux, the chest pain is located in the middle of the chest and right underneath the breastbone or sternum and only stays in that particular area. On the other hand, the chest pain associated with a heart attack also occurs behind the breastbone but also spreads to other parts of the body, ranging from the shoulders and arms to the jaw and teeth.

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      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.

      Are There Similarities Among The Signs And Symptoms Of Heart Attack And Heartburn

      Heart Disease Or Heartburn

      A person can have these symptoms with either heartburn or a heart attack. Since the symptoms are so similar, it often makes it difficult for some people to tell if they are having heartburn or a heart attack.

      • Unusual weakness or fatigue
      • Persistent and/or increasing severity of symptoms over minutes

      Although heartburn may produce some less severe symptoms, heartburn is rarely life threatening. In contrast, heart attacks are frequently life threatening. If there is any doubt in your mind as to whether you or someone you are with has symptoms indicating heartburn or heart attack, you should call 911 immediately to be transported to an emergency department for medical treatment.

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      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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