The pain experienced during a heart attack and during a severe heartburn episode can be difficult to distinguish. It is not unusual for people to mistake symptoms of heart disease (such as angina and even a heart attack) for heartburn. Similarly, many people go to the emergency room each year out of fear that they are having a heart attack, only to find out they have severe heartburn. In fact, it often takes medical testing to make the determination.
Here are some possible differences between the heartburn and heart attacks.
Note: Call for emergency medical services right away if you have any chest pain, even if you think it may be heartburn.
Heartburn and heart attacks are not the only conditions that can cause chest pain. Other problems that can cause chest pain include:
Chest pain can be difficult to interpret. Call for emergency medical services right away if you have any chest pain, especially if you have other signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Do not have someone drive you to the emergency room. Emergency medical crews can administer treatment on the way to the hospital.
The American College of Gastroenterology
American Heart Association
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Gastroesophageal reflux disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 22, 2014. Accessed June 11, 2014.
Heart attack. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/Heart-Attack_UCM_001092_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed June 11, 2014.
Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd. Updated May 14, 2014. Accessed June 11, 2014.
ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 29, 2014. Accessed June 11, 2014.
Last reviewed June 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.