Is it Heartburn or a Heart Attack? Know the Warning Signs
Is it Heartburn or a Heart Attack? Know the Warning Signs

A heart attack occurs when the heart muscle isn’t getting enough blood flow, generally due to blockages in the arteries. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly enough, the heart muscle will become damaged and death may result. For this reason, it’s crucial to get appropriate emergency care as soon as possible if a heart attack is suspected. Yet, often people fail to get help because they are unsure whether a heart attack is the culprit. For instance, many times people suspect the cause of their discomfort is heartburn or indigestion, and then delay getting necessary emergency care.

What Does Heartburn Feel Like?

First, it’s important to understand that even experienced doctors can have difficulty differentiating between heartburn and a heart attack, and will likely require tests to determine with certainty what the source is. Also, to possibly make things more confusing, heartburn is a symptom of heart attack, as well.

Heartburn Symptoms

  • Burning in chest, and possibly upper abdomen. Begins in the breastbone region.
  • Usually occurs after eating or when lying down or bending over.
  • May cause sour taste in the mouth.
  • May happen if you eat within 2 hours of bedtime.
  • Sore throat.
  • Hoarse voice is possible.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Bad breath.
  • May cause a “wet burp.”
  • Usually relieved by antacid.
  • Doesn’t move to the shoulder, neck or arms.

Heart Attack Symptoms

  • Pressure, tightness, pain, squeezing sensation in chest, arms, neck or jaw and back.
  • Aching may spread to the neck, jaw or back.
  • Nausea, indigestion or stomach pain may occur.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sudden dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Cold sweat, clammy skin.
  • Heaviness in arms.
  • Pain in the center or on the left side of the chest.
  • Symptoms may come and go, and may start gradually or suddenly.
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat.
  • If pain is relieved by a burp, it’s most likely not a heart attack.
  • Symptoms may happen with physical exertion or with mental or emotional stress.

It’s important to note that both heartburn and heart attacks can cause symptoms that may temporarily subside on their own. Whether they disappear or not, symptoms such as these are warning signs and should be checked out. Remember, delaying treatment by even minutes can be a matter of life and death, so when in doubt, get checked out at the ER. Or better yet, just call 9-1-1. Hopefully, you’ll be wrong and everything’s fine. But just in case, it’s worth the time and trouble to seek medical help and potentially save a life!