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Heartburn or Heart Attack?

Is it heartburn, or am I having a heart attack?

The most commonly known clue of a heart attack is chest pain. But like every mystery, every heart attack is different and they rarely look or feel like you’d expect. Even if you’ve had a heart attack in the past, your next one might not feel the same. But every second counts to avoid heart damage. That’s why it is so important to know all the possible heart attack symptoms and call 911 immediately if you suspect a heart attack.


Heart Attack Symptoms

It can be challenging to decode digestive issues from a heart attack. Chest pain caused by a heart attack can also resemble discomfort or pressure and can even feel like fullness, heartburn or indigestion. It can be intense or mild, and can last for more than a few minutes. It might even go away and come back. Other clues are:

  • Racing pulse. Your heart might pound even when you are at rest or might not stop racing after you’ve been active
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Pain in your jaw or possibly in your back, shoulders, neck or upper part of the stomach
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing when resting or during mild physical activity
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating or cold sweat
  • Feeling unusually tired for no reason, sometimes for days (especially for women)
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting

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Heartburn Symptoms

  • Pain or a burning feeling in the chest which can worsen after lying down, bending over or eating
  • Burning sensation in the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing. A feeling of food stuck in the throat or the middle of the chest
  • Acidic taste in the back of the throat

Heartburn can also be a symptom of indigestion, which can cause uncomfortable fullness, nausea and a burning or discomfort in the upper abdomen.

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Solving the mystery in record time

Even if you know the signs of a heart attack and are informed and engaged in your own or a loved one’s healthcare, if there is a reason for concern, it is always better to be safe and quickly seek a professional medical evaluation. Even medical professionals can mistake one condition for another without the proper tools needed to make a diagnosis. Our hospitals, emergency rooms, cardiologists and other medical professionals are experts at investigating and uncovering the true cause of your heart attack symptoms. HCA Midwest Health has 10 emergency rooms conveniently located throughout Kansas City with heart care experts ready to solve the mystery – quickly.

With the area’s only network of award-winning, accredited chest pain centers, your chance of surviving a heart attack improves by more than 35 percent. No other Kansas City area hospitals open up clogged arteries for heart attack patients faster than we do.

Every second counts when solving a mystery. Don’t drive. Call 911.

ER Locations

Heart Care

Traveling can be stressful. And that’s something you don’t need when combating cardiovascular disease. We offer comprehensive and advanced heart care close to where you live, work and play. With various locations throughout the Kansas City area, you will never have to travel far to receive expert diagnosis, treatment and management for any heart or vascular condition.

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Reducing your chance of heart attack and heartburn

Although a heart attack and heartburn can sometimes feel alike, they affect different organs. Still, there some things you can do to reduce your chances of both.

Heart Attack: Many studies indicate that smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack. It can increase blood pressure, increase the tendency for blood to clot and decrease exercise tolerance. High blood pressure can lead to the hardening of arteries and narrowing of blood vessels.

Heartburn: Nicotine can relax or weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is located between the esophagus and the stomach. This can make it easier for acid to rise.

Do: Smoking can cause of a slew of health problems. If you are a smoker, consider talking to your doctor about a way to quit that best fits your needs.

Heart Attack: A diet high in salt, fat, sugar and cholesterol is a factor in the development of heart disease. High blood cholesterol levels can increase the risk of the formation of plaques and the hardening or narrowing of the arteries. A poor diet can also lead to obesity, which can worsen other heart disease risk factors.

Heartburn: Eating large portions, eating high fat, citrus, spicy or acidic foods, drinking caffeinated or carbonated beverages and eating right before bedtime may increase your risk of heartburn.

Do: Eat a nutrient rich, heart healthy diet made up of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless chicken and fish, nuts and beans and vegetable oils. You should limit red meat, sugar, saturated and trans fat and salt. If you experience frequent heartburn, it may be helpful to keep track of what foods and activities seem to trigger symptoms and talk to your doctor about a way to manage your condition. Frequent heartburn can also be a sign of a more serious condition like gastroparesis so be sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns.

Heart Attack: Alcohol can raise blood pressure, increase triglycerides and harden your arteries. It can also contribute to obesity and a higher risk of developing diabetes.

Heartburn: Some research shows that alcohol, especially red wine, may increase your risk of heartburn and may relax the LES.

Do: Consider limiting your alcohol intake. One to two drinks a day for men and no more than one a day for women is recommended.

Heart Attack: According to the American Heart Association, stress does not have a direct link to heart disease but chronic stress can have a negative effect on your heart health. Chronic stress can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, which may damage the artery walls.

Heartburn: Chronic stress can cause digestive problems and may trigger heartburn symptoms.

Do: If you feel overwhelmed more often than not, talk to your doctor about ways to cope with stress.

Heart Attack: Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease and the increase of other risk factors such as obesity. Obesity is linked to higher bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It can also lead to high blood pressure and diabetes.

Heartburn: Exercising right after a meal can push stomach contents up through the LES and may contribute to heartburn symptoms.

Do: Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight and preserve your physical and cardiovascular fitness. Just try to avoid eating a couple hours before activity. If you think you could benefit from losing extra pounds, talk to your doctor about a safe and manageable weight loss plan.