Is It A Heart Attack Or Heartburn?
Heart attacks and heartburn are very different, but symptoms are often the same. And though a heart attack is much more serious, heartburn shouldn’t be ignored, either. Here’s what to watch out for:
Chest Pain: Heartburn
With heartburn, which occurs when the acid in your stomach backs up into your throat, you’ll feel a burning sensation in your chest, especially after eating or while lying down.
Chest Pain: Heart Attack
In the case of a heart attack, symptoms include a mild pain in your chest (the pain will often start slowly). Other signs include a tightening, squeezing or crushing pain in the chest, pain that spreads to the back, neck, jaw shoulders or arm (especially the left arm), cold sweats, dizziness and nausea.
A Sour Feeling In The Mouth: Heartburn
The process of acid backing up into your throat is called reflux. This in turn irritates your throat and causes the sour taste. Sourness isn’t a symptom of heart attack, although accompanying chest pain may be difficult to diagnose yourself. When in doubt about chest pain, call for help immediately.
When Heartburn Happens: After A Large Meal
Heartburn frequently occurs after a large or spicy meal; you’ll also notice that it can become worse when lying down, because that position makes it easier for stomach acid to leak back up through your throat.
When A Heart Attack Happens: Anytime
A heart attack can happen anywhere, no matter whether you are relaxing or being active.
Length Of Pain: Heart Attack
There’s a common belief that a heart attack occurs abruptly and noticeably. But that’s not always the case. Chest pain can continue over the course of a few days, even in the midst of strenuous activity like exercise or dancing. And people can suffer a heart attack without even knowing it.
Length Of Pain: Heartburn
With heartburn, the irritation and burning sensation in the chest is intermittent, occurring days apart. Again, when in doubt, call for help.
Symptoms By Gender: Heart Attack And Heartburn
The symptoms of heart attack are similar for both men and women, especially breathlessness and pain that radiates from the chest to the neck, jaw and arms, particularly the left arm. But other signs of a heart attack differ between the genders. In women, symptoms of heart attack include nausea, cold sweats and dizziness or disorientation. The signs of heart attack in men include a tight feeling in the chest, breathlessness, and an abrupt feeling of fullness. There are no gender-specific symptoms with heartburn.
Complications: Heart Attack
Unfortunately, surviving a heart attack doesn’t guarantee long-term life. Because part of the heart tissue has been damaged, the heart may malfunction and cause a cardiac arrhythmia, which can be fatal. Medical treatment and lifestyle changes are essential and often helpful, but damage to the heart is irreversible. But getting to the hospital as fast as possible is one of the most effective weapons against heart attack. “The sooner we can diagnose the problem,” says James Giglio, MD, an emergency physician at NY Presbyterial Hospital, the smaller the heart attack is likely to be.”
With heartburn, complications are less serious, although they shouldn’t be disregarded. Persistent heartburn can develop into Gastroesophageal Reflux, or GERD. If your symptoms occur at least twice weekly or interfere with your daily life, see your doctor. The likelihood is that you have GERD. Although lifestyle and over-the-counter medicines can help GERD sufferers, some need prescription medicines and even surgery. In the most extreme cases, GERD has been linked to esophageal cancer. The cancer, known as Barrett’s esophagus, is rare, but it can be diagnosed, so it’s worth discussing with your doctor.
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