Having pain in the chest can cause serious concern, even if it isn’t a heart attack. For most people, severe heartburn and heart attacks can be hard to tell apart. Both cause pain in the chest, and both can pass without a fatality. Your pain could even be caused by angina, pain caused by a reduced flow of blood through the heart. Knowing the difference between heart attack symptoms and simple indigestion can save your life. Here’s what you need to know:
Indigestion, also known as heartburn, is a discomfort or pain that starts in the stomach as a result of difficulty digesting food. It can lead to acid reflux, which is a condition where digestive acid travels up the esophagus causing a burning sensation or dull pain in the chest. This condition can affect people in different ways, often leading them to believe they are experiencing a heart attack rather than indigestion. Heartburn usually has the following distinct symptoms:
- A burning sensation that starts at the breastbone and can travel up the throat
- A feeling that food is re-entering the throat or mouth
- A bitter or acidic taste at the back of your mouth or throat
- An increase in pain or severity when lying down or bending over
A heart attack occurs when blood flow is blocked by a buildup of cholesterol, fat or other substances. Although the Hollywood version of a heart attack is depicted as a sudden, crushing pain in the chest, that isn’t always how it happens. You can have a heart attack without realizing or distinguishing it from an episode of heartburn. While the pain from a heart attack can also be felt in the chest, there are distinct differences to look for when experiencing a heart attack as opposed to heartburn:
- A feeling of tightness or dull pressure in the chest area, usually the center of the chest
- A cold sweat or clamminess
- A feeling of numbness, tingling or even pain in the arms, shoulders, and neck
- A light-headed, faint or dizzy feeling
- A shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- A nauseous feeling that can lead to vomiting
When to Call the Doctor
If you are having any of the heart attack symptoms listed above, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. If the pain you are experiencing is new or wakes you up at night, you should call your provider. Even if you experienced a period of chest pain and did not seek medical attention, schedule an appointment with your provider. Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Your health care provider is there to help you, and in some cases, save your life.
For more information on heart attacks or indigestion, contact our office to schedule an appointment or check out our other blog posts. Have a happy and healthy day!