Heart attack or heart burn? Here’s How To Identify The Difference

Following a healthy diet can reduce your chances of heart attack as well as heartburn

Heart attack and heartburn are two very different conditions with similar symptoms. Both conditions can cause a burning sensation in your chest. While heart attacks are usually more painful, that isn’t always the case. Hence, it can be is easy to get confused between the two.

During a heart attack, not getting the right help right away can be dangerous and even fatal. It is better to be prepared and know the difference between a severe heart attack and heartburn.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack, also called myocardial infarction, is when a coronary artery doesn’t supply enough blood to the heart muscles. Coronary arteries carry oxygenated blood to the heart’s muscles. They are necessary for the proper functioning of the heart. If not supplied with enough blood, the heart stops working causing a heart attack.

The most common symptom of heart attack is chest pain. People describe this chest pain as a tight feeling, pressure, or a heavy ache in their chest. The pain may come and go. Sometimes the pain isn’t as severe, and people often ignore the symptom until it’s too late.

Other symptoms of heart attack are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or unconsciousness
  • Feeling light-headed or tired
  • Sharp pain in arms or shoulders
  • Discomfort in the jaw and neck region
  • Pain in the lower abdomen and back

What is a heartburn?

Heartburn or acid reflux happens when acid from the stomach rises into the oesophagus. Our stomach contains acids to help aid digestion. The stomach tissues are constantly rebuilding themselves against this acid. The muscles in the oesophagus are not strong enough to tackle these acids. This causes the burning sensation and chest pain. Contrary to what the name may suggest, heartburn isn’t a heart-related disorder like a heart attack.

Chest pain is also the most common symptom of heartburn. This occurs due to the oesophagus lining being damaged by the stomach’s acids. Bloating is another symptom of acid reflux. Due to both problems having similar chest pain, they can be difficult to distinguish.

Here are some ways you can distinguish between the two:

  • Heartburn doesn’t cause other symptoms of heart attack, such as shortness of breath or lightheadedness.
  • Taking an antacid can help reduce the pain of heartburn.
  • Heartburn usually occurs after a heavy meal or lying down after a meal. Heart attacks can happen at any time.

Understanding Chest Pain

There can be various other reasons behind chest pain. A severe anxiety attack can lead to shortness of breath, a racing heart, and tightness in the chest. Constant coughing or inflammation in the chest because of infection can also cause chest pain.

Whatever the reason may be, chest pain shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Precaution for heart attacks

Stay cautious

Ignorance of early symptoms can lead to severe heart attacks or other complications. If you’re feeling a tightness in your chest along with shortness of breath or pain in your arm, it is best to approach a medical professional at the earliest. Better to be safe than sorry.


A physically active lifestyle can help reduce the chances of a heart attack. Try to aim for 5,000 steps every day and gradually increase that.

A healthy diet

Incorporate more fruits and greens into your diet. Avoid oily or fatty foods that can raise your cholesterol levels.

Quit smoking

The best prevention is to quit smoking and drinking. The chemicals in cigarettes can severely damage your blood vessels.

What do doctors suggest?

Cardiologist and consultant Dr. Sunil Dwivedi at Manipal hospital says, “Heart attack is common in South Asians, especially among Indians, because of conventional risk factors occurring at an early age like hypertension, diabetes, smoking, obesity, and family history. These risk factors are more due to Metabolic syndrome in a large population. This syndrome is due to excess calorie intake and less physical activity. Combine this with a lack of awareness about regular health checks and physical activity. People develop silent heart trouble in middle age. Then either suddenly starts doing heavy physical activity, sports to reduce weight and fitness, doing stressful sessions or programs.During such periods, the stress hormones can cause sudden rupture of cholesterol plaque in the heart blood supply combined with the increased blood clotting tendency, a sudden clot in blood supply leads Rhythm disturbance during a heart attack is the cause of sudden death.

Regular doctor-guided health checkups from the early 30s, following a healthy lifestyle, and medications are most important. It controls the risk factors and heart attacks. Most people avoid medication for hypertension and diabetes and then land up with such complications.”

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.


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