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Is Your Chest Pain a Heartburn or a Heart Attack?

Written by
Dr. Vasantha K S
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Sep 26, 2017 and last reviewed on Jun 22, 2019   -  3 min read


This article clears up confusion regarding chest pain due to heartburn that is frequently misunderstood to be a heart attack and the main differences between the two types of conditions.

Is Your Chest Pain a Heartburn or a Heart Attack?

While heart attack and heartburn are two very different conditions, it is quite possible to confuse one with the other. A heart attack is often accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, paleness, and sweating. So, if you have these symptoms, and they do not subside with rest or the use of regular antacids, it is recommended that you call for medical assistance first before opting for first-aid. The first-aid for heart attack would be to chew and swallow a full-strength Aspirin (325 mg) unless you are allergic to it.

What Is a Heartburn?

Heartburn is not a disease by itself. It is a burning sensation felt in the chest due to the regurgitation of stomach acid contents back into the food pipe. It usually begins behind the breastbone and can last for a few minutes to hours.

The Symptoms of Heartburn Include:

Heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms can get triggered by hot, sour and spicy foods and beverages and often respond to various over-the-counter antacids available in the market. It is recommended to consult a medical gastroenterologist if your acid reflux symptoms are severe and occur multiple times a week.

What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is a medical emergency. It happens when there is a complete blockage of an artery that supplies oxygen to a section of heart muscles. It is experienced as a discomfort, squeezing or tightness of chest.

The Warning Signs of a Heart Attack Are:

Eating a very heavy meal may not just trigger a heartburn, it can cause a heart attack too, especially in people who already have a coronary artery disease. Also, studies have shown that about half of the people who seek medical help for a noncardiac chest pain end up being diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease. While half of the people who did have a heart attack had no or very minimal symptoms and that is the reason it is crucial that we should be able to differentiate between both.

So, How Do We Tell the Difference Between the Two?

Since both the conditions present with chest pain as the primary concern, it is tough to conclude the cause without confirmatory tests. But, understanding the distinguishing points is the key.

High-Risk Categories of Heart Attack:

You can suspect a heart attack associated chest pain if you have any of the following risk factors.

As a final note, if you are still confused and are unsure about what is causing your chest pain, it is always safer to get yourself examined by a physician to avoid unnecessary panic.

For more information consult a cardiologist online -->


Last reviewed at:
22 Jun 2019  -  3 min read


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