You've just finished a meal of paneer butter masala and ghee-filled parathas when chest pain strikes. How do you know whether to reach for that antacid or call for immediate help? How can you tell if your heart's run out of gas or if your stomach is full of it? Learning to tell the difference between heartburn and pain from heart conditions can help you save precious time in case of an emergency.
Heartburn and heart attacks are easy to confuse. The main difference: Heartburn actually has nothing to do with your heart. More a symptom than a disease, heartburn is caused by acid reflux. When the acid from your stomach hits your oesophagus, it causes the pain termed heartburn. A heart attack, on the other hand, is caused by a blockage in the arteries responsible for blood & oxygen supply to heart, and the pain you feel is when the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart is blocked.
Due to the oesophagus being so close to the heart, it can be difficult to tell where the pain originates. Fortunately, the symptoms of heart attacks and heartburn are fairly different in quite a few respects. Noticing these signs early, however, can be crucial in helping you take the appropriate action.
Heartburn vs. Heart Attack Symptoms
Where is the pain?
With heartburn, you feel a burning sensation in the food pipe, just above the stomach. This pain is usually limited to the chest and throat. Heart attack, on the other hand, is usually ( but not limited to) associated with a feeling of tightness or pressure in your chest, and the pain can travel to other parts of your body, such as your arms, back, shoulder, jaws and neck.
What induces the pain?
Heart attacks are often provoked by exercise or severe stress, though they can happen at any time. Heartburn is usually brought on by a spicy, fatty meal or if you're lying down or bending over after a heavy meal. Heartburn is easily relieved by belching or taking antacids. Heart conditions, though, need immediate medical assistance.
What are the distinguishing symptoms?
Unlike heartburn, a heart attack can also cause the following symptoms. If you feel these symptoms, skip the antacids and seek immediate medical help instead:
- Extreme fatigue and dizziness.
- Sudden shortness of breath.
- Paleness of skin.
- Cold sweats.
- Nausea that may lead to vomiting in some cases.
How to Avoid Heartburn
Many of the tips to decrease heartburn also happen to benefit your heart health, so give these a try to feel better overall:
- A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains is your best option to avoid heartburn. Chocolate, coffee, dairy and meat may not be so kind, so watch your intake.
- Eat smaller meals. Heavy meals can put unwanted stress on your abdomen, causing acid reflux.
- Avoid alcohol and cigarettes. These substances relax the valve that keeps acids in the stomach.
- Chew gum to increase your production of saliva, which helps neutralize the acids in your stomach.
- Avoid eating late at night to give your body at least two to three hours to digest before heading to bed, especially if you eat spicy and fried foods, which take longer to digest.
- Find a way to keep your upper body elevated while you sleep. When you lie flat, it's easier for stomach acids to flow up your oesophagus. Sleeping on your left side also helps keep heartburn at bay.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you can't distinguish between heartburn and a heart condition, don't think twice to call for help. Even if it's a false alarm, you want to let the doctor make that call when you're not sure.
Disclaimer: This publication/editorial/article is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.