Is It Heartburn Or Heart Attack
Is It Heartburn or Heart Attack
Heartburn, despite its name has nothing to with the heart, although it may have similar symptoms to heart disease or heart attack.
Heartburn is caused by stomach acid rising up the esophagus (the tube between the throat and stomach) which causes a burning sensation in your upper belly/lower chest.
Heartburn symptoms may be triggered by a problematic lower esophageal sphincter (LES) a valve located where the esophagus and stomach meet.
When the LES is working right stomach acid is held in the stomach. The LES opens to allow food in or air (burps) out, and then closes again, but if the LES doesn’t close properly or stays open too long stomach acid can leak into the esophagus causing the heartburn.
There are a couple of things which can contribute to this problem.
1. Overeating – too much food in the stomach may cause the LES to fail.
2. Too much pressure in your stomach which may be caused by pregnancy, constipation or obesity.
Some of the common causes of heartburn are:
High fat or oil meals, Lack of Sleep, Stress and Some Medications
Although occasional heartburn is not dangerous, long term heartburn (GERD) may lead to other serious problems like:
- Inflammation or ulcers in the esophagus
- Narrowing of the esophagus causing problems swallowing
- Long-term cough
Generally an off the shelf antacid will be sufficient to treat heartburn. If symptoms persist see your doctor, you may need a prescription medication.
Heart disease (Angina)
Angina is a condition caused by a temporary lack of oxygen to the heart and can feel very similar to heartburn, it tends to strike when you are doing moderate to strenuous activity.
As your activity level increases your body requires more oxygen, but your clogged or narrowed arteries dramatically limit the supply available. If the oxygen supply is less than the demand you may experience angina chest pain.
Some of the more common symptoms of heart related illness is a feeling of pressure or tightness, or a heavy crushing sensation in the chest, and is often made worse with raised activity levels. It is common for heart pain to radiate to the arms, the neck, the jaw and the back and is often accompanied by sweating, nausea, difficulty breathing, dizziness and an irregular pulse.
As a rule of thumb angina will usually last for five to ten minutes, a heart attack will last slightly longer and reflux may last from minutes to hours.
If the pain is digestive system related, like GERD, it is usually sharper as opposed to a heavy pressure or tightness from angina and will usually get worse if you lie down or bend over, allowing stomach acid to rise up the esophagus
All chest pain needs to be taken very seriously and you should call an ambulance or seek medical help immediately. Especially if you are over 50 years old or have high risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, you smoke, or have a family history of heart disease. If it turns out to be non cardiac chest pain fantastic, there is no such thing as over reacting when it comes to chest pain.
- Burning chest pain which happens after eating (although it may occur other times)
- The pain gets worse if you lay down or bend over
- There is no movement of the pain to neck, jaw, back or arms
- You are not dizzy or short of breath
- Your pulse is normal
- An off the shelf antacid alleviates the pain
This type of pain is probably not cardiac in origin
- You have a tightness, heavy, crushing sensation in the chest (but could be any type of pain – Sometimes no pain at all)
- Pain becomes worse with raised activity levels
- The pain moves to the arms or jaw or neck or back
- You are dizzy, nauseous, sweating, short of breath and have an irregular pulse
- You have high risk factors such as age, high cholesterol, obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure) or a family history of heart disease
This type of pain is probably cardiac in origin