Heart Conditions vs. Heartburn: How to Tell The Difference
 
Is your chest pain heartburn or a serious heart condition?

Heart Conditions vs. Heartburn: How to Tell The Difference

By Tulika Bhogaraju

You've just finished a meal of paneer butter masala and ghee-filled parathas when chest pain strikes. How do you know whether to reach for that antacid or call for immediate help? How can you tell if your heart's run out of gas or if your stomach is full of it? Learning to tell the difference between heartburn and pain from heart conditions can help you save precious time in case of an emergency.

Heartburn and heart attacks are easy to confuse. The main difference: Heartburn actually has nothing to do with your heart. More a symptom than a disease, heartburn is caused by acid reflux. When the acid from your stomach hits your oesophagus, it causes the pain termed heartburn. A heart attack, on the other hand, is caused by a blockage in the arteries responsible for blood & oxygen supply to heart, and the pain you feel is when the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart is blocked.

Due to the oesophagus being so close to the heart, it can be difficult to tell where the pain originates. Fortunately, the symptoms of heart attacks and heartburn are fairly different in quite a few respects. Noticing these signs early, however, can be crucial in helping you take the appropriate action.

Heartburn vs. Heart Attack Symptoms

Where is the pain?

With heartburn, you feel a burning sensation in the food pipe, just above the stomach. This pain is usually limited to the chest and throat. Heart attack, on the other hand, is usually ( but not limited to) associated with a feeling of tightness or pressure in your chest, and the pain can travel to other parts of your body, such as your arms, back, shoulder, jaws and neck.

What induces the pain?

Heart attacks are often provoked by exercise or severe stress, though they can happen at any time. Heartburn is usually brought on by a spicy, fatty meal or if you're lying down or bending over after a heavy meal. Heartburn is easily relieved by belching or taking antacids. Heart conditions, though, need immediate medical assistance.

What are the distinguishing symptoms?

Unlike heartburn, a heart attack can also cause the following symptoms. If you feel these symptoms, skip the antacids and seek immediate medical help instead:

  • Extreme fatigue and dizziness.

  • Sudden shortness of breath.

  • Paleness of skin.

  • Cold sweats.

  • Nausea that may lead to vomiting in some cases.

How to Avoid Heartburn

Many of the tips to decrease heartburn also happen to benefit your heart health, so give these a try to feel better overall:

  • A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains is your best option to avoid heartburn. Chocolate, coffee, dairy and meat may not be so kind, so watch your intake.
  • Eat smaller meals. Heavy meals can put unwanted stress on your abdomen, causing acid reflux.
  • Avoid alcohol and cigarettes. These substances relax the valve that keeps acids in the stomach.
  • Chew gum to increase your production of saliva, which helps neutralize the acids in your stomach.
  • Avoid eating late at night to give your body at least two to three hours to digest before heading to bed, especially if you eat spicy and fried foods, which take longer to digest.
  • Find a way to keep your upper body elevated while you sleep. When you lie flat, it's easier for stomach acids to flow up your oesophagus. Sleeping on your left side also helps keep heartburn at bay.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you can't distinguish between heartburn and a heart condition, don't think twice to call for help. Even if it's a false alarm, you want to let the doctor make that call when you're not sure.

Disclaimer: This publication / editorial / article is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor/ healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.

You've just finished a not-so-healthy meal of paneer butter masala and ghee-filled parathas when the chest pain strikes. How do you know if you should reach for that antacid or call for immediate help? How can you tell if your heart's run out of gas or your stomach is full of it? Learning to tell the difference between a heart attack and heartburn can help you save precious time in case of an emergency.


Heartburn and heart attacks can be easy to confuse, but the main difference is that one has absolutely nothing to do with heart. If you haven't already guessed, I'm talking about the notorious heartburn. Heartburn is more a symptom than a disease; caused by acid reflux. When the acid from your stomach hits the inner lining of your esophagus, it causes pain i.e. heartburn. A heart attack, on the other hand, is caused by a blockage in the coronary arteries. It is the pain you feel when the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart is blocked.


Due to the esophagus being so close to the heart, it can become difficult to tell where the actual pain is originating from. Even doctors have to run a few tests to determine what's causing the pain sometimes. But the saving grace is that the symptoms of heart attack and heartburn are very different. Noticing these signs early can be crucial in helping you take the appropriate action.


Heartburn Symptoms:


  • Burning sensation in the food pipe, just above the stomach

  • Accompanied by belching and bloating

  • May be accompanied by a bitter taste in your mouth

  • Usually happens after eating, while lying down or bending

  • Crops up if you've eaten within two hours of going to bed

  • Can be relieved by over-the-counter antacids


Heart Attack Symptoms:


  • Pain travels up the chest into the back, neck, jaw, shoulder and left arm

  • Accompanied by extreme fatigue and dizziness

  • Sudden shortness of breath

  • Paleness of skin

  • Cold sweats

  • Feeling of nausea that may lead to vomiting in some cases

  • Common among people who have heart conditions, high cholesterol or diabetes

  • Other risk factors include smoking, obesity and stress


Heartburn vs heart attack:


  • Heart attack is associated with a feeling of tightness or pressure in your chest. The pain is often provoked by exercise or severe stress. Heartburn is characterized by a sharper pain that travels up the chest into your throat, leaving a sour taste in your mouth. It's usually brought about by a spicy, fatty meal.

  • Heartburns happen when you're lying down or bending over after a heavy meal, usually at night. Heart attack can happen anytime.

  • Heartburns are easily relieved by belching or antacids, while heart attacks need medical assistance.

  • In the event of a heart attack, the pain travels to other parts of your body - arms, back, shoulder, neck. In the case of heartburn, the pain is limited to the chest and throat.


How to avoid heartburn:


  1. A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains is ideal to avoid heartburn.

  2. Cut down on your chocolate, coffee, dairy and meat intake. These are some of the foods known to cause heartburn.

  3. Give spicy and fried foods a pass. They take longer to digest.

  4. Eat smaller meals. Heavy meals can put unwanted stress on your abdomen, causing acid reflux.

  5. Stay off alcohol and cigarettes. They tend to relax the valve that keeps acids in the stomach.

  6. Chew gum. It increases the production of saliva which helps neutralize the acids in your stomach.

  7. Avoid eating late at night. You need to give your body at least two to three hours after you eat before heading to bed.

  8. Find a way to keep your upper body elevated while you sleep. When you lie flat, it's easier for stomach acids to flow up your esophagus. Sleeping on your left side also helps keep heartburn at bay.

I hope this article has helped you better understand heartburn and heart attack. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you're unable to identify between the two, don't think twice to call for an ambulance. Nine out of 10 times, it's a false alarm but you want to let the doctor make that call.