Eliz Greene

Is the pain heartburn or a heart attack?

How can you tell the difference between a sharp, burning sensation in your chest caused by the pizza you just ate or a sign of something more serious?

Heart attack symptoms can be difficult to diagnose, especially in women. My heart attack absolutely started out feeling like heart burn. I’ve experienced both severe heartburn and a heart attack and the pain is very similar at the beginning.

Here are 7 ways to tell the difference between heartburn and a heart attack:

  1. Did you just eat something which upset your stomach? If your tummy is usually upset 30 to 40 minutes after eating spicy or greasy food, the chances are it is heart burn. But, if you haven’t eaten, or what you ate doesn’t usually cause upset, then it cause for concern.
  2. Does an antacid help? Usually the relief is immediate. If you take an H-2 blocker such as Zantac or Tagamet relief should come in 30 to 40 minutes. If the pain continues or get worse seek medical attention right away.
  3. Do you have pain when swallowing, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite or are you throwing up blood? You may have damage to your esophagus and you should seek immediate medical attention.
  4. Do you have shortness of breath, cold sweat, vomiting, dizziness, or pain or tingling in your arms? It is time to call 911. These are signs you may be having a heart attack.
  5. Did exercise or physical activity bring on the symptoms? This is a big clue to get help right away.
  6. Is the pain stopping you from doing normal activities? Heart burn can be uncomfortable, but pain that distracts you from work or causes you to withdraw from activities should be evaluated by a medical professional quickly.
  7. Do you have risk factors for heart attack? High blood pressure, high cholesterol, high stress, being overweight, being sedentary, and having family members with heart disease are signs you may be more likely to be having a heart attack.

How do you really tell the difference? Go to the doctor. If you even think it might be a heart attack, get help. It is worth a little bit of embarrassment about overreacting to save your life.

Since my heart attack, I’ve been to the emergency room twice with chest pain. Both times I was fairly sure it wasn’t another heart attack, but I wasn’t willing to take the risk of being wrong.

Being told “it’s just heartburn” is a good outcome!


About Eliz Greene

Eliz Greene survived a heart attack at age 35 while seven months pregnant with twins. Her down-to-earth strategies to manage stress and improve heart health and reduce stress are used by thousands of busy people all over the world. She is a motivational wellness speaker, author, and job stress researcher. Visit elizgreene.com to book Eliz for your next event.


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