Tags: Health Topics | Heart Disease | heartburn | heart attack

Is It Heartburn or a Heart Attack? Know the Symptoms

man suffering from chest discomfort

By    |   Tuesday, 17 December 2019 09:43 AM

There's nothing more frightening than waking up in the middle of the night suffering from acute, burning chest pain. The first thought that crosses your mind is that you are having a heart attack. But experts say those symptoms also can be caused by heartburn.

Chest pain is one of the most common reasons to go to the emergency room and while many of the people who make that trip are suffering from angina or a heart attack, others may be experiencing extreme heartburn also called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

The symptoms for these two vastly different disorders are often very similar. Heartburn has nothing to do with your heart but is related to your esophagus. Because both are located close to each other, they can both produce symptoms of chest pain. Heartburn is caused by stomach acids rising up into your esophagus. This can cause chest pain that sometimes radiates to your throat, neck, or jaw.

"Our stomach is made for acid and can handle it, but our esophagus is not," says Dr. Mary Ann Bauman, medical director of women's health at INTEGRIS Health Systems. "I tell my patients that if you belch and the symptoms go away, it probably isn't related to your heart but to your esophagus. But if you have shortness of breath and sweating, then it's a heart-related issue."

According to Healthline, in addition to chest pain, other common symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Unexplained fatigue

While heartburn can be extremely uncomfortable, other signs include:

  • Feeling acid or burning sensation creep up your chest when you lie flat
  • Pain that keeps you from sleeping, especially if you ate a heavy meal before bedtime
  • Sour or acidic taste in the mouth
  • Relief if you take antacids

To avoid heartburn, experts recommend eating your last meal at least three hours before lying down, eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, wearing loose-fitting clothing to avoid pressure on your abdomen, and quitting smoking.

"Also stay away from alcohol, aspirin, and other anti-inflammatory drugs along with citrus fruit, which can relax the valve between the esophagus and the stomach and allow acid to splash up," says Bauman.

If you experience heartburn at night, give gravity a hand by elevating your head about six inches to keep stomach contents down in the stomach where they belong.

If you are not sure if it's heartburn or your heart causing your discomfort, it's always better to be safe, say experts. Call 911 or seek medical attention right away because often only a doctor can distinguish between the two health issues. Ignoring the signs of a heart attack can be severely damaging to your heart tissue and life-threatening.

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There's nothing more frightening than waking up in the middle of the night suffering from acute, burning chest pain.
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Tuesday, 17 December 2019 09:43 AM
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