Know Your Pain: Heartburn or Heart Attack

Sometimes, it is hard to know the reason behind the uneasiness or pain in the body. Heartburn and heart attack are one of them. Heartburn and heart attack signs and symptoms mimic each other a lot. While Heartburn is something you can take a little easy but the Heart attack is life-threatening. Heart attack needs immediate attention and medication to save your self or your loved one.

Knowing the difference between these two may not be as easy as you think. Although heartburn has nothing to do with your heart, whenever you feel too much of it. You should know whether you need to reach for an antacid or call 911? Even doctors fail to distinguish sometimes on the basis of symptoms and medical testing is necessary to determine what’s going on.

Heartburn is a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and usually is caused by stomach acid that causes irritation of the esophagus. A heart attack usually is caused by coronary artery blockage or heart disease.

What are the signs or symptoms of heartburn and heart attack that mimic each other?

A person can have these symptoms with either heartburn or a heart attack. Since the symptoms are so similar, it often makes it difficult for some people to tell if they are having heartburn or a heart attack.

  • Chest pain
  • Gastric complaints such as nausea, vomiting,


  • Heartburn symptoms often occur after eating a heavy meal, or at night.
  • Heart attacks can occur at any time. So, even if pain occurs after a meal or at night, do not ignore it.


  • Heartburn pain may begin at the breastbone and travel up toward the throat with increased severity pain if you bend over.
  • A heart attack often starts in the chest that spreads to the shoulders, neck, or arms, especially to the left side.

What are the signs or symptoms of heartburn and heart attack that are different?

A heart attack is usually accompanied by:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold Sweating.
  • Dizziness
  • Pain extending to neck or shoulder.
  • Pain persists even after taking antacids.
  • Persistent and/or increasing the severity of symptoms over minutes

Symptoms like dizziness and shortness of breath may also occur with heartburn in very rare cases.

During Heartburn you may feel food coming back into the mouth, and have an acidic or bitter taste in your throat along which never happens in a heart attack.

One more thing to remember is people with diabetes who are having a heart attack often have atypical or minimal symptoms. 

This happened in my father’s case. He is diabetic since the last 2 yr. One day he called me and said he had a breathing problem at night. When I asked further, he did not complain about any chest pain. Rather he did complain about sweating and vomiting since night. The thought that came in my mind was either it was a cardiac arrest or just heartburn. On asking more about his diet. He ate beans that day which causes acidity most of the time. So, I thought it was just an acidity and I suggested him to balance his diet. But, when he complained about the same problems the next day as well. I asked him to get test done, ECG. He has a cardiac arrest, which was obviously treated by medicines.

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If your symptoms persist, even after taking antacids. You must visit your physician.

Always take aspirin if there are delays in getting to professional medical care. Aspirin helps to thin the blood in case you are having a heart attack. 

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