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.

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.

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 diabetes
  • Smoke
  • Are overweight/obese 
  • Have high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure
  • Have a family history of heart disease
  • Have had a 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
Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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