Just finished a spicy meal and suddenly, there’s that chest discomfort.
Panic sets in: is it that extra chili, or something more serious?
Chest discomfort can be unnerving, especially when we associate it with serious heart conditions. However, distinguishing between heartburn and a heart attack is crucial.
The Burning Question: Heartburn or Heart Attack?
Both heartburn and heart attacks may share some alarming symptoms, like chest pain, but they have distinctly different origins and characteristics.
Understanding Heart Attacks:
Heart attacks happen when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. Without oxygenated blood, heart muscles can get damaged or die.
Characteristics of a Heart Attack:
- Pain or discomfort that can spread to the arm, jaw, neck, or back.
- Feeling of tightness, pressure, or squeezing in the chest.
- Shortness of breath or fatigue with mild exertion.
- Nausea, dizziness, or cold sweats.
Getting to Know Heartburn:
Heartburn is a sensation of burning in the chest caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. It can get worse when sitting or lying down.
Characteristics of Heartburn:
- A sharp, burning sensation just below the breastbone or ribs.
- Pain that can be relieved by antacids.
- A sour taste in the mouth.
- Symptoms might get worse after eating or when lying down.
How To Differentiate Between a Heartburn & Heart Attack
Duration: Heart attack symptoms typically last 30 minutes or longer. Heartburn symptoms may go away after taking antacids and tend to be more sporadic.
Type of Pain: Heartburn pain is less likely to be associated with physical activity. But a heart attack might happen during physical exertion.
Response to Medications: If you have heartburn, antacid drugs will typically relieve your pain within moments. If it's a heart attack, nitroglycerin and other heart medications may alleviate the pain, but the relief won't be instantaneous.
Symptoms: Nausea, cold sweats, and light-headedness are more common with a heart attack. Heartburn can be accompanied by a sour taste in your mouth or a sensation that food is re-entering your mouth.
When in doubt, don’t play a guessing game.
If you're uncertain whether your chest pain is caused by heartburn or a heart attack, seek immediate medical attention.
A rule of thumb: it's better to be safe than sorry. Your heart will thank you!