Is that chest pain you feel from heartburn, or is it a heart attack? These two conditions can cause similar symptoms, but they’re very different, especially when it comes to treatment. While heartburn will probably happen to everyone at some point, a heart attack is a medical emergency that can be life-threatening.
Learn about the symptoms of each condition and find out what to do if you think you or someone else is having a heart attack.
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What Is Heartburn?
Despite its name, heartburn actually has nothing to do with your heart. It happens when food or stomach acid rises up into your esophagus, the tube that connects your throat to your stomach.
Most people will have heartburn now and then, especially after eating a large meal or certain kinds of foods, like chocolate, fried or fatty foods, or alcohol. Heartburn can also be common during pregnancy, when the uterus grows and puts pressure on the stomach.
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What Does Heartburn Feel Like?
Symptoms of heartburn can include:
- A feeling of burning, warmth, or pain in your chest that usually gets worse if you lie down or bend over
- A sour taste in your mouth
In many cases, heartburn is not serious and can be relieved by avoiding certain foods or taking over-the-counter medicines, like antacids. But if you are pregnant or have heartburn on a regular basis, you should talk to your doctor about the best way to treat it. In some cases, frequent heartburn can be a symptom of a more serious digestive disorder.
What Is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack happens when blood flow to your heart is blocked, causing damage to your heart muscle. A heart attack is a medical emergency that can be life-threatening, so if you think you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 911 right away.
What does a heart attack feel like?
Common heart attack symptoms can include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in your jaw, neck, stomach, or one or both arms
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
And, women can have different symptoms besides the ones listed above, including:
- Pressure or pain in the chest or back
Heartburn or Heart Attack? Should I Seek Help?
If you have chest pain and are not sure if it’s heartburn or a heart attack, call 911 right away. It’s better to get emergency treatment and find out that you have a minor health problem than to ignore something that could be deadly.
Remember, paramedics will provide the fastest, safest transportation to the hospital. Do not drive yourself or ask someone else to drive you.
To learn more about heart attack causes, symptoms, and treatment options, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.