Can You Tell the Difference Between Heartburn And A Heart Attack?

A twinge of heartburn and some slight indigestion aren't unusual, especially after a large or greasy meal. But, heartburn and a heart attack often feel very similar, and few people can tell the difference between the two.

GERD And Heart Burn

Commonly called acid reflux, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) affects as much as 30% of Americans. GERD is a chronic condition where the person experiences heartburn on a regular basis. People regularly visit Emergency Rooms for heartburn, but they go with a valid cause for concern. Experienced medical professionals can't always decipher a complaint of extreme heartburn from a heart attack with a basic physical exam.

With heartburn, a person experiences discomfort that can range from the stomach area through the esophagus behind the sternum. This discomfort is similar to the indigestion symptoms of a heart attack.


Unlike heartburn, angina is a pressure type of discomfort. Angina chest pain seems closer by definition to a "textbook" heart attack.

Angina pain usually creates pressure around the chest region. The feeling of tightness is a serious symptom of a heart attack.

Symptoms Of A Heart Attack

Many people imagine a heart attack as a sudden pain in the chest region. A heart attack may never have that tell-tale sign and instead could have any variety of symptoms.

The most common symptoms include tightness or pressure around your chest as well as a dull pain behind the breastbone. Many people report feeling a pain that travels from the shoulder to the arm and a rapid heartbeat.

Seek immediate medical attention for any of these symptoms:

  • Burning chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion with vomiting
  • Sudden lightheadedness
  • Cold sweating or clamminess
  • Waking from sleep to vomi
  • rregular or rapid heartburn.

It is easy to confuse regular heartburn discomfort with the symptoms of a heart attack.