If you’ve ever had a severe case of heartburn and wondered if something much scarier was happening, you’re not alone. Many people mistake indigestion for heart attacks every year. Unfortunately, when it ends up being heartburn, and you’re handed the bill for the emergency room, you’re hesitant ever to take those symptoms seriously again. That’s why it’s important to know the differences, however slight, between the two. Getting medical attention in time can be the difference between life and death, so ignoring symptoms isn’t precisely an option. Instead, take a closer look at those symptoms and see where they fall.
Are They Really That Similar?
Heartburn and heart attack can sometimes present so similarly that not even a doctor and a physical exam can tell the difference right away. That’s why, when you go to the emergency room with chest pain as the chief symptom, you’ll immediately be given tests to rule out the possibility of a heart attack. It’s not an attempt for the hospital to rack up the largest bill possible, and it’s their best bet at keeping you safe and alive.
Persistence Isn’t Key
Among the similarities between the symptoms of heart attack and heartburn is a lack of persistence. Sometimes, symptoms persisting can be the indicator between the two. However, sometimes, an impending heart attack can present symptoms that disappear after an hour or two only to return when the attack is in full swing. Persistence, then, can be a factor in determining whether or not your chest pains require immediate medical attention, but shouldn’t be the golden standard.
Heartburn Feels Like
Heartburn is often described as a burning feeling that starts high in your stomach and moves up into your chest. It can manifest as chest pain that makes you feel extremely full and thus makes it a little harder to breathe fully at times, too. Heartburn usually occurs while eating or while lying down or bending over. Heartburn usually subsides when antacids are taken and may be accompanied by a sour taste in your mouth or a small amount of regurgitation.
Heart Attack Feels Like
The textbook heart attack includes sudden, intense chest pain and shortness of breath. However, that is only one of many ways heart attacks can present themselves. Heartburn can, sometimes, even be a symptom of a heart attack.
Common heart attack symptoms include chest pain, dizziness, nausea, tightness in your chest or arms that can move up to your neck, jaw, or back, cold sweat, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Chest pain is the most prevalent and pressing symptom when it comes to identifying a potential heart attack, but looking for a combination of the symptoms listed can help you determine how concerned you need to be.
There’s no getting around the fact that the symptoms of heart attack and heartburn are similar. So similar that sometimes your physician can’t tell the difference with a standard physical exam. Because of the similarities, we always recommend taking the road of “better safe than sorry.” After all, if it’s an oncoming heart attack, it’s your life on the line. If you’re experiencing new or unexplained chest pains, seek medical attention as soon as possible. The more knowledge you have about how your body reacts to certain things and what it can and can’t handle, the better position you’ll be in care for it in the long run. Whenever you’re not sure, it’s best to seek professional help. Contact your primary care provider for more information or contact us to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist to learn more about your heart health.