I’ve often had patients tell me that in the weeks that led up to their heart attacks, they were frequently troubled by heartburn. But afterwards, the problem mysteriously disappeared.
In fact, they weren’t suffering heartburn at all; they were experiencing symptoms of coronary artery disease.
Here’s how you can tell the difference between digestive issues and a possible heart problem:
These are the characteristics of heartburn:
• Burning sensation starting in the upper abdomen and moving up into the chest
• Usually occurs after eating or while lying down or bending over
• May awaken you from sleep, especially if you have eaten within two hours of going to bed
• Usually relieved by antacids
• May be accompanied by a sour taste in your mouth — especially when you’re lying down
• May be accompanied by a small amount of stomach contents rising up into the back of your throat (regurgitation)
Other digestive issues can also mimic the symptoms of heart disease, particularly muscle spasms in the esophagus or pain from gallbladder disease.
With gallbladder disease, nausea and an intense, steady ache in the upper middle or upper right abdomen can occur — especially after a fatty meal. And the pain may shift to your shoulders, neck, or arms.
Digestive issues usually occur after eating, whereas symptoms of heart disease or heart failure might occur after exercise or exertion.
In the case of heart failure, a person may also experience a lack of appetite or a feeling of being full.
When nausea and digestive problems occur with heart failure it is because the heart is too weak to pump blood strongly enough to the organs that comprise the digestive system.
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