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Know the Signs: Heart Attack or Heartburn

Thursday, February 22, 2018 6:57 AM

It is amazing how such a little thing – like the heart – can be such a powerful tool. With great power comes great responsibility, and it is our job to take care of our hearts. Part of taking care of our hearts is recognizing when something is wrong. It can be very difficult to tell the difference between heartburn and heart attack. To better help understand the difference between the two, Jason Robin, MD, Cardiologist at NorthShore, breaks down their symptoms.

Heartburn is caused by digestive acid making its way into the esophagus, causing discomfort or pain. The symptoms are:

  • A burning sensation in your chest and upper abdomen; typically occurs after consuming a meal or lying down
  • A sour taste in your mouth

A heart attack is unexpected and frequently causes intense chest pains. It is often believed that heart attacks are brought on by exertion – but most do not happen like that. While symptoms vary, common ones include:

  • A tight pressure, ache or a squeezing sensation in the chest or arms. This feeling can also spread to the neck, jaw and back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

Dr. Robin says one way to tell the difference between the two is if the symptoms go away, then it is typically heartburn. If you experience any of the above symptoms and they do not go away, call 911 as it may be a heart attack.

To avoid heartburn in the future, stay away from foods that trigger it such as caffeinated drinks, high-fat foods or onions. Implementing healthier lifestyle choices can help too. These smart changes are quitting smoking, shedding a few pounds and not going to bed with a full stomach.

How did you know you had heartburn? What did you do to get rid of it?