Heartburn or Heart Attack? How to tell the difference

03. 26. 2018

“Am I having a heart attack or just really bad heartburn?”

You are not the first person to ask this question, and you won’t be the last. Chest pain can be alarming, and when the pain hits, you just want it to stop.

Heartburn and heart attack can mimic each other because the pain comes from similar locations. The esophagus and heart are in close proximity, so it is understandable that you might not know what is causing your pain.

Heartburn or Heart Attack Checklist:


• Symptoms can include bloating, burning chest, burning throat, acidic/bitter taste in mouth, and pain upon bending over
• Symptoms often occur after eating a meal
• Pain often begins at breastbone and travels up to throat
• Condition usually responds to antacids or belching
• Symptoms tend to change gradually
• Pain does not often cause weakness
• Condition is caused by a weakness in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)
• Condition is usually not a medical emergency

Heart Attack

• Symptoms can include cold sweat, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting
• Symptoms can occur at any time
• Pain can radiate to shoulders, neck or arms
• Condition does not respond to antacids
• Symptoms persistent and/or increase in severity over minutes
• Pain is often accompanied by unusual weakness and fatigue
• Condition is caused by a blockage of a coronary artery
• Condition is always a medical emergency and can be life-threatening

While this list may help you to distinguish heartburn symptoms from those of a heart attack, if you are in doubt, call 911. If you are having a heart attack, you need you be transported to an emergency department immediately for medical treatment (source: Medicine).

Make an appointment with your gastroenterologist if you have been experiencing frequent chest pain. Although chronic heartburn is not life-threatening, you may be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can cause long-term damage if it is not properly managed.

To find a gastroenterologist in your area, click here and enter your zip code in the orange box.

Related Articles:

Heartburn-Related Chest Pain
When to See a Doctor For Heartburn
What are the Causes and Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers?

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