Is My Chest Pain Heartburn Or A Heart Attack?
Chest pain is a significant occurrence. Occasionally, this upper body discomfort signals the presence of a mild/moderate and transient but treatable issue such as heartburn or a serious, life-threatening concern like a heart attack. Knowing each one’s distinguishing features could ultimately save your life.
Heartburn is classified as a burning sensation occurring in the chest behind your breastbone. Moreover, heartburn is not an illness but a physical symptom of some other underlying problem.
Heartburn has many causes. The condition occurs when burning, irritating acid escapes your stomach and enters the esophagus. This condition is medically called gastroesophageal reflux disease, often known as GERD or acid reflux.
In many cases, heartburn results because the valve separating your stomach and esophagus fails to operate correctly, allowing stomach acid to travel upward.
The condition has been attributed to other precipitating factors including:
- Hiatal hernias.
- Excessive alcohol intake.
- Serious underlying diseases like cancer.
Your dietary habits can cause heartburn. Particularly fat, greasy, or heavily spiced foods induce inflammation and can lead to increased acid formation. Eating large meals or lying down soon after eating can bring on or aggravate heartburn.
The most noticeable heartburn symptom is the burning occurring in your chest’s central region. In many instances, this happens shortly after eating or during the night. You might experience swallowing difficulties, increased burping, coughing, a scratchy or irritated throat, a foul taste in your mouth, or the feeling that food is stuck in your throat or lower chest.
Many incidents last only a short time. Consistent heartburn can lead to complications. Powerful stomach acid can damage the esophagus’s lining, which can eventually interfere with your ability to swallow or even breathe. Additionally, the acid may cause structural changes inside the esophagus that might increase your risk of developing cancer.
Diagnosis is not a lengthy or complicated process. On many occasions, doctors can identify the disorder based on classic symptoms or following a favorable response to over-the-counter or prescription therapeutics.
Heartburn is a symptom and not a standalone ailment. Recurrent or severe incidents could result from significant, potentially major underlying issues. To identify the problem, your doctor might order diagnostics, such as an endoscopy, pH acid probes, esophageal pressure tests, or internal imaging tools.
Potential Treatment Options
Treatment will depend on the specific underlying cause. Solving the issue can be easy if the symptom can be traced back to a temporary circumstance like pregnancy or a simple lifestyle alteration such as dietary habits. If heartburn is symptomatic of a more serious illness, more aggressive therapy might be warranted.
Mild to moderate incidents could be relieved by using medications, such as antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and H-2 receptor antagonists.
There are also some actions you can take:
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Consuming a diet limiting or eliminating overly spiced, fat, or greasy foods.
- Not eating before bed.
- Limit exacerbating habits like smoking or drinking.
- Eating several smaller meals instead of a few large offerings.
You might even find relief wearing loose-fitting clothing that does not place undue pressure on the chest or upper abdominal regions.
A heart attack is what happens when the blood supply to your heart is cut off. This can be attributed to an obstruction in coronary arteries caused by blood clots or cholesterol-causing plaque. In scientific terms, a heart attack is referred to as a myocardial infarction.
Unlike heartburn, a heart attack is a major, life-threatening illness requiring immediate medical attention.
A heart attack is not usually precipitated by any one acute cause. Typically, there are several risk factors leading to such events such as:
Poor Lifestyle Habits.
Your risk increases if you practice poor lifestyle habits, like regularly consuming fat, greasy, salted, processed foods, cigarette smoking, excessively consuming alcoholic beverages, or using illegal drugs.
Exposure to continual, excessive tension and anxiety results in the systemic release of chemicals called stress hormones. These substances place extra pressure on your heart and cardiovascular system.
If you are significantly overweight or obese, your risk of a heart attack rises significantly. Excess pounds place undue strain on your heart and could inhibit its pumping capacity.
Underlying Health Factors.
Two of the most significant underlying health factors include high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol concentrations. Blood pressure measures the intensity with which your heart circulates blood. Too high a reading means your heart is working too hard, which can weaken the heart muscle over time. Elevated cholesterol levels can result in the clogging of arteries both inside and leading to the heart.
Your risk of developing a heart attack increases with age. Heart attacks can and do strike younger people, usually those with several risk factors, especially family history.
Arguably, the most significant potential predictor of a future heart attack is your family history of the illness. A significant percentage of people holding no other risk factors should still exercise extra vigilance because they often have genetic predispositions to high blood pressure and heightened cholesterol readings.
Symptoms may vary and often depend on your gender.
Both women and men usually experience:
- Chest tightness, burning, or intense pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Discomfort spreading beyond the chest cavity to the arms, neck, jaw, back, and shoulders.
Many women also experience feeling lightheaded, dizzy, and exceptionally fatigued. Both genders might also have increased sweating, skin clamminess, nausea, vomiting, intense anxiety, coughing, or wheezing.
Physicians cannot stress enough that heart attacks are complicated illnesses that can prove fatal.
Should you experience any of the preceding symptoms, you should contact emergency services personnel or arrange transportation to a medical facility immediately. Seconds count. Each period of time that passes could result in the death of increasing quantities of the heart muscle. Even the most relatively mild and survivable incidents could result in serious consequences, permanent disability, and significant life alterations.
Upon arrival at a medical facility, heart attack symptoms are typically treated as emergencies and receive immediate attention.
The team of emergency physicians and staffers might confirm the diagnosis using various techniques, such as internal imaging apparatuses, like X-Rays, magnetic resonance imaging, and computerized tomography, often abbreviated as MRI and CAT scans, electrocardiograms to measure the heart’s electrical activity, cardiac catheterization, which allows the examining physicians to examine the heart’s insides, and blood tests.
Potential Treatment Options
Aggressive treatment centers around stopping the attack and restoring the heart to some semblance of normal function.
Physicians attempt to do this through remedial efforts, including the administration of blood pressure-lowering or blood-clot dissolving medications, employing some type of mechanical procedure designed to restore proper blood flow, or performing bypass surgery in which blood flow is reestablished by using synthetic channels to create new passageways for the blood to flow.
If immediate medical attention is administered, recovery is possible. A key part of a successful recovery is preventing future heart attacks. Fortunately, you might be able to achieve such aims through efforts like:
Making Lifestyle Changes.
A healthier diet, eliminating negative vices, exercising, shedding excess weight, and limiting stress wherever possible could significantly reduce your risk.
Obtaining Appropriate Medical Screenings.
You should get routine medical screenings like blood pressure readings and cholesterol measurements if you carry any risk factors, especially a family history of heart problems. Ensuring these readings fall in the normal range is crucial to heart attack prevention.
The team of skilled, experienced, and patient-minded doctors working for Gastroenterology of Greater Orlando has been serving the residents of central Florida for many years and always welcomes the opportunity to help new patients overcome any digestive ailments they might have.
Our practice began more than 15 years ago and has emerged as one of the leading gastroenterology practices in central Florida. We perform a host of diagnostic procedures using state-of-the-art equipment in a friendly, comfortable, and inviting atmosphere where patient care is always a top priority. Contact us today