Heartburn or Heart Attack? When to Worry

Saturday, November 10th, 2018, 6:05 pm

A burning painful sensation in your chest, an uncomfortable pain in your back and shoulders. Is it just heartburn and sore muscles? Or is it something more serious like a heart attack? How do you know when you should go to the immediate care/emergency room for chest discomfort? The symptoms for heartburn and a heart attack are oftentimes very similar, but there are some distinctions that may be able to put your mind at ease.


Heartburn occurs when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus and causes a burning sensation in your upper abdomen and chest. Usually, heartburn will get worse after you have eaten a large meal and when you lay down. Heartburn may wake you up when you sleep, and you may taste or feel acid coming to the back of your throat. The symptoms of heartburn may be alleviated when the person takes an antacid.

Heart Attack

The symptoms of a heart attack can often manifest differently from person to person, and especially from men to women. Men generally have the most commonly known symptom of a heart attack, which is an intense chest pain coupled with shortness of breath. Women, on the other hand, often experience chest pressure accompanied with an aching sensation that may spread to the neck, jaw, back and shoulder area, shortness of breath, and nausea/vomiting. People have also been known to get light-headed, feel fatigued, and break out in a cold sweat.

What Should You Do?

If you feel you may be having a heart attack, you should seek emergency medical treatment. This usually will mean calling 9-1-1. If you are complaining of chest pain, the first thing the doctors will do is an EKG (echocardiogram) to determine if you are having a heart attack. If the emergency room doctors clear you, you should follow up with your primary care physician and see if you may be suffering from heartburn, or GERD (a chronic form of heartburn), or one of the many other conditions that can cause you to have chest pain.

You should always take chest discomfort and any other related symptoms seriously, especially if you have risk factors for a heart attack such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, or being overweight. There is never any harm in getting yourself checked ou

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