Understanding heartburn and heart attack
After eating quite a heavy meal that was finished up with a glass of iced tea, I felt a burning, sort of tight, sensation in my chest, and I felt dizzy. It was actually just a heartburn (I know now), but I got a little anxious and thought for a while that I was having a bout of heart attack. I’m a diagnosed hypertensive and my family has a history of heart problems. So the incident really got me worried, until I read about acid reflux and how it very much mimicked a heart attack.
I learned that heartburn had nothing to do whatsoever with the heart and that it is actually a symptom of acid reflux, not a disease in itself. But why is it frequently mistaken for a heart-related condition? Let us try to understand the presentation of heartburn and how it is similar, and different to a heart attack.
What is heartburn?
A heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation that occurs when food from the stomach moves back up to the chest due to acid reflux. It is more related to your esophagus than to your heart. But because both of these organs are close to each other, they can cause chest pain. This is why heartburn is often erroneously diagnosed as a heart attack.
When you experience reflux, the food that regurgitates up to your throat is accompanied by a bitter taste, which perhaps you also have experienced, especially when you’ve eaten too much acidic food or drinks. Some symptoms of acid reflux such as belching, nausea or vomiting may occur with heartburn.
What are the common symptoms of heartburn?
Severe heartburn may be difficult to distinguish from a heart attack, as these two start off with chest pain. However, one of the most essential differences would be that taking anti-acidic medications almost always cures heartburn. The chest pain from heartburn often occurs after having a meal or while lying down, and some of the food that you’ve eaten might move up (regurgitation) and leave a sour or bitter taste. Most doctors would suggest that if the chest pain is reduced or disappears after belching, then it would be safe to say that you’re having heartburn.
What are the symptoms of heart attack?
In the case of a heart attack, on the other hand, the pain is described as dull and squeezing and is usually located at the center of the chest, which is not relieved with lying down or taking antacids. The pain also radiates to the neck, shoulders, jaw, and arms.
An individual who suffers from symptoms of a heart attack most often has generalized weakness and cold sweats, distinguishing features that rarely occur with heartburn. After one takes antacids and feels that his symptoms have not disappeared, he must call 911 or contact his physician immediately.
When do you seek medical attention?
If you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing a heart attack or heartburn, it would be best to seek medical attention immediately. Visiting your doctor and discussing your symptoms with him or her would be the wisest choice for safety and prevention.
If the doctor finds that you have heart problems, then you can take the necessary tests and precautionary measures to prevent a heart attack from happening. If what you’re experiencing is a heartburn, it would be such a relief to know straight from a medical professional that the burning sensation and pain in the chest is not heart-related after all.