A heart attack is an event triggered by disease in the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart. When coronary artery disease leads to a loss of blood supply to a section of the heart muscle, a heart attack occurs. This can lead to the stopping of the heart, also known as a cardiac arrest. An individual with cardiac arrest will not be responsive and will have no pulse.
Heartburn is a condition that tends to occur shortly after drinking or eating. Unlike a heart attack, it is a symptom and not a disease. Heartburn is the term used to describe the sensation, usually of burning pain, brought about by acid reflux - the splashing back of the contents of the stomach into the food pipe. The causes of heartburn, therefore, are directly related to the causes of acid reflux.
The stomach produces mucus to protect its lining from the acid used in aiding digestion. However, no such protective mechanism exists in the food pipe. Therefore, acid reflux can damage the lining of the food pipe. As is clear, heartburn is a symptom which is not related to the heart. The confusion arises because of the sensation of heartburn being felt in the area near the heart.
Diagnosing: Heart attack vs heartburn
A heart attack and heartburn can be differentiated based on the:
- Area of the body affected
- Distinguishing symptoms of a heart attack
Where is the pain being felt?
With heartburn, a burning sensation is felt in the food pipe, just above the stomach. This kind of pain is usually limited to the chest and the throat. On the other hand, a heart attack is usually (but not limited to) associated with a feeling of pressure or tightness in the chest, with the pain travelling to other parts of the body.
What induces the pain?
Heart attacks may often be provoked by too much exercise or severe stress, albeit they can happen at any time. Causes of heartburn should usually be a fatty, spicy meal or the lying down or bending over after a heavy meal.
What are the symptoms that distinguish a heart attack from heartburn?
In comparison with heartburn, a heart attack can also have the following symptoms:
- Nausea that may lead to vomiting
- Cold sweats
- Paleness of skin
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue and dizziness
When should you call your doctor if you suspect a heart attack?
Anyone with the following symptoms should contact the hospital at once:
- Nausea and dizziness
- Chest pain/discomfort (which feels like fullness, pain, squeezing pressure, lasting more than a minute, or that appears and disappears)
- Discomfort of pain or discomfort in other parts of the body like the arms, neck, or stomach
- Shortness of breath felt before or simultaneously with chest discomfort
- Cold sweat
- Feeling unusually tired
In case of any suspicion of a heart attack, head to the hospital immediately to seek treatment.
When should you see a doctor for heartburn?
On experiencing acid reflux, an appointment should be made with a doctor when there is:
- persistence in the condition for a while
- difficulty in swallowing or breathing
- presence of blood in the stools
- unexplained weight loss
- difficulty in eating
Heartburn is relieved by belching, and treatment may often involve the consumption of antacids. Gaviscon is the World’s No. 1 Heartburn Specialist^ that gets to work instantly#, providing long-lasting heartburn relief, upto 2X longer vs. ordinary antacids*.
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^Claim based on information aggregated and reported in part from data supplied by Nielsen through its Retail Measurement Services for the defined category (RB defined) for the 12 month period ending June 2020, for the defined RB geographic focus
*Comparing Gaviscon with select ordinary antacid
I. Chevrel B. A comparative crossover study on the treatment of heartburn and epigastric pain: Liquid Gaviscon and a magnesium--aluminium antacid gel. J Int Med Res. 1980;8(4):300-2.
II. Mandel KG etal. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Jun;14(6):669-90
#Strugala V etal. J Int Med Res. 2010 Mar-Apr;38(2):449-57
Article published 1 July 2021