The symptoms of heartburn, which result from digestive issues and the symptoms of a heart attack can be very similar. It is important to closely monitor any chest pain and know the difference between heartburn and heart attack symptoms because doing so could be a lifesaver.
According to the Harvard Medical School
, even doctors can be confused by the similarity in symptoms between heartburn and a heart attack. In fact, one doctor temporarily misdiagnosed himself, "Sometimes when I would feel the burning in my chest, I would remember an old saying to the effect that “A doctor who takes care of himself has a fool for a patient.” Still, I hesitated; I didn’t want to waste the time of a cardiologist if all I had was heartburn."
The symptoms of heartburn and a heart attack may be similar but the root causes are distinctly different. Heartburn is caused by acid reflux, which occurs from an abundance of acid in the stomach moving up into the esophagus. A heart attack is caused by plaque buildup in the heart arteries, which results in constricted blood flow to the heart.
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According to the Mayo Clinic
, symptoms of heartburn include, "a burning sensation in your chest that may start in your upper abdomen and radiate all the way to your neck." This sensation can last for just a few minutes or for several hours. In addition, symptoms include a reflux of stomach acid that "may leave a sour taste in your mouth — especially when you're lying down.'
While some medical conditions such as pregnancy or a hiatal hernia can cause heartburn, generally it is preceded by having eaten something that caused indigestion. For example, the Cleveland Clinic reports
that large portions and foods like "onions, chocolate, peppermint, high-fat foods, citrus fruits, garlic, spicy foods, and tomatoes or tomato-based products" can cause heartburn. Drinking alcohol, eating before bedtime, clothing that is too tight and obesity are also contributing factors to heartburn.
The early symptoms of a heart attack also include chest pain and while the American Heart Association states, "some heart attacks are sudden and intense" most heart attacks have warning signs that, if recognized, can serve to save a person's life.
In the case of a heart attack, AHA reports
that the pain in the chest involves "discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain." In addition, there can be pain in "one or both arms." Additional symptoms may include a "cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness."
Go Red for Women points out
that the warning signs of a heart attack are not always the same for men and women. Women are more likely to also experience jaw pain or "symptoms that women often brush off as the flu, stress, or simply feeling under the weather — which could put their lives in jeopardy."
This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.
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