That’s a great question, but not as easy to answer as we doctors would like.
The classic heart attack symptoms are quite distinct.
- crushing chest pain that may radiate to the arms, back, jaw and abdomen
- a feeling of pressure or heaviness in the chest
- tightness in the chest
- shortness of breath
- anxiety or a sense of impending doom
Not everyone who has a heart attack has all those symptoms with the same severity. Some people have mild symptoms. But, chest pain often accompanies that burning sensation we call heartburn. To complicate matters further, a few other conditions may also cause symptoms that mimic those of a heart attack.
It’s important to be aware of the possible symptom overlap, but it’s nothing to be frightened about. Most cases are actually pretty cut and dried, with many heart attack victims experiencing one or more of the classic symptoms. Familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of both heart attack and indigestion will help.
When in doubt, chew two aspirin, call 911, and proceed to the emergency room.
Symptoms of indigestion (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD) arise after overeating, consuming foods that provoke indigestion or eating shortly before bedtime.
- sharp pains in the chest, abdomen and up toward the throat
- burning in the chest
- a sour taste in the mouth
- the sense of food or liquid “repeating” itself
- symptoms may begin or get worse when you lie down
- a feeling of fullness or bloating
- discomfort is often, but not always, relieved by antacids
Remember that frequent heartburn, while not as serious as a heart attack, is not something you should ignore. Lifestyle changes, and medication if needed, are often very successful at reducing or eliminating chronic indigestion.