Is it heartburn…or a heart attack?

Pain and pressure in your chest caused by heartburn and reflux can feel like the pain of a heart attack or angina. Knowing the difference could save your life.

Symptoms of a heart attack

Chest pain, pressure, tightness or squeezing, lasting more than a few minutes

  • May be more noticeable during physical activity or extreme stress
  • Spreading to the back, neck, jaw, stomach, shoulders or arms
  • Often together with other symptoms such as:
    • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
    • Sweating
    • Light-headedness / dizziness / feeling faint
    • Indigestion/nausea/vomiting
    • Irregular pulse
    • Unusual fatigue or weakness
    • Tingling in the hands or feet

Chest pain is more likely heart trouble if you have risk factors

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Overweight/obese
  • High cholesterol and/or high blood pressure
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Previous heart attack or heart disease

Symptoms of heartburn

  • Burning or pain in the chest—it may start lower and move up to the chest and throat
  • Pain can last a few minutes or a few hours
  • Acid reflux often leaves a sour/unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Pain may be more pronounced after eating fatty or spicy foods, or a large meal
  • Pain is worse when lying down or bending over
  • If the chest pain is from heartburn, antacids should provide some relief

Most people get occasional heartburn, but frequent, chronic heartburn can damage the lining of your esophagus over time and increase your risks for serious health problems, including cancer.

Talk with your doctor about your symptoms or learn more about our Heartburn and Swallowing Disorders Clinic.

Minutes count, so call 9-1-1

If you’re not sure if your chest pain is a heart attack or something else, don’t take any chances. Seek medical help right away and, if available, chew an aspirin. Quick medical intervention to open blocked arteries can minimize long-term damage to the heart muscle.

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