Heartburn or Heart Attack? Header Image

Heartburn or Heart Attack? Either way, we have you covered.

So you’ve just finished a Trenta Americano and feel a burning sensation in your chest. It’s probably just heartburn, right? Most likely. But there’s a chance the chest pain could actually be a heart attack. Severe heartburn and a heart attack can be hard to tell apart. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the differences, recognize the warning signs and symptoms, and know when to get help immediately.


What is Heartburn?

Despite its name, heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. Heartburn is caused by stomach acid irritating the esophagus. The most common symptoms of heartburn include:

  • A sharp burning sensation that occurs after eating (this can last for a few minutes or for several hours)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain, especially after bending over, lying down or eating

Occasional heartburn is no cause for alarm, but heartburn that is more frequent (at least 2 times a week) may be a symptom of a more serious condition known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD. You should make an appointment with your doctor. Call our Consult-a-Nurse team 24/7 at (804) 320-3627 to find a specialist.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

While the signs and symptoms of a heart attack can vary greatly from person to person, typical heart attack signs and symptoms include:

  • Pressure, tightness, pain or squeezing in your chest or arms
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain in the back, neck or jaw
  • Cold sweat
  • Feeling weak, light-headed or faint

Chest pain, pressure, tightness or squeezing should never be ignored. Don’t wait to seek help. Call 911 immediately if you think you may be experiencing a heart attack.


Heart Attack Myths

Myth #1: Being thin and fit means you won’t have a heart attack.

Fact: Being fit helps, but if you are fit and still have high LDL cholesterol, you are at an increased risk for heart attack. Get your cholesterol checked regularly.


Myth #2: Heart attack symptoms for women are the same at every age.

Fact: Younger women are more likely to have unusual symptoms like sleep disturbances. As women enter menopause in their 50s, their heart attack risk increases and symptoms like chest pain become more common.


Myth #3: Heart attack check pain is severe and starts suddenly.

Fact: Heart attack pain in men tends to start slowly, beginning as mild chest pain that comes and goes with time.


Why Calling 9-1-1 is Your Best Decision

According to the CDC, every year 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Getting to an ER fast might save your life. Calling 9-1-1 gives you the best chance at survival. It’s not about getting to the emergency room more quickly, (although ambulances do have that whole “going through red lights” thing going for them). It’s about getting you emergency treatment ASAP. In some cases, that treatment could start at home or en route to the ER.

It’s not fun to think about accidents and illness, but knowing where to go in an emergency is important. At HCA Virginia, our expert emergency department is ready with advanced care 24 hours a day. Our team of board-certified physicians, nurses and clinical staff is specially trained and equipped to care for all types of emergencies. When minutes matter, choose HCA Virginia ER.

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