How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Heart Attack and Heartburn?

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Chest pain accompanied by breathing difficulty or sweating likely indicates a heart attack, whereas chest pain that disappears after belching possibly signals heartburn, states the American Heart Association. Seek medical attention when experiencing chest pain, as the symptoms of heartburn and heart problems are very similar.

Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, occurs when stomach acids rise up into the esophagus, causing chest pain that can reach the neck, throat or jaw, explains the American Heart Association. While a burning sensation in the chest after having a heavy meal may indicate heartburn, it can also result from a heart attack or a condition called angina in which the heart receives decreased blood flow, notes Mayo Clinic.

Doctors cannot always differentiate the symptoms of heartburn and heart attack based on an individual’s medical history and a physical exam, according to Mayo Clinic. Patients who are sent to the emergency room due to chest pain need to undergo several tests to determine the cause.

Anyone who previously experienced unexpected chest pain that resolved after a few hours should consult a health care professional, because both heartburn and an imminent heart attack involve symptoms that disappear after a certain period, as Mayo Clinic explains. Chest pain requires immediate medical care regardless of the length of the symptom’s occurrence.