How can I differentiate between a heart attack and heartburn?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Buddybob asked...

I had a heat attack 3 years ago and didn't know it. It came in the form of heartburn only and it was intense in the top of my chest. Take my resting HR monthly and discovered 4th beat missing. Doctor did an ekg confirmed the heart attack. Ordered stress test no damage. Last night I had same type of heartburn and took 2 asprin and pepto and it disappeared in 2 hours (I would have been to ER in the 3 hour time frame). This heartburn seemed to be less intense but still scared me. How can I differentiate between a heart attack and heartburn? There are none of the normal symptoms - what eles can I look for?

Expert Answers

Carolyn Strimike, N.P. and Margie Latrella, N.P. are cardiac nurse practitioners specializing in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. They have over 40 years of nursing experience in Cardiology between them. The main goal of their work is to counsel, motivate and empower women to adopt healthy lifestyle choices.

Sorry to hear about your past heart attack. It can be very difficult to tell the difference between heartburn and heart attack when your symptoms really mimic those of heartburn. You did the right thing taking the aspirin when you experienced the discomfort that was similar to your heart attack, however, any discomfort that is similar to previous heart attack symptoms or "scares" you should be evaluated immediately. You didn't go to the emergency room, but you should call your cardiologist and explain the episode. He/She will most likely want to re-evaluate you with another stress test or even a cardiac catheterization.

Heart attack symptoms can really vary. The classic symptoms are chest,left arm, or jaw discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, and sweating. Not everyone gets the classic symptoms...heartburn type discomfort, shoulder blade pain, extreme fatigue, decreased energy levels can also indicate a problem.

It is very important to keep all of your risk factors well controlled. These include blood pressure, cholesterol levels, sugar levels, don't smoke, exercise regularly (as permitted by your healthcare provider), and eat a healthy diet.

Finally, take all medications as prescribed and see your cardiologist routinely. Definitely make an appointment (if you haven't done so already)to let him/her know about your recent experience. It may only be heartburn, but there is no way to be sure until you check out your heart first.

Community Answers

Bunbado answered...

The key is rehabilitation. This is an 18 to 27 week thing. When my heart quit in 1997, there was 5 per cent damage done. By following this person's strict guidelines, my herart regained it's strength. Medication was involved and I took this diligently--none of this I am smarter than the doctors and the rehabilitation person in charge. Today some of the medication has been reduced to 4 prescriptions and two over the counter drugs. Everyday I must exercise 45 minutes. Yes, I get tired, but my life depends upon this everyday no exceptions routine. Thus I am a firm believer in following instructions to the letter and I believe in rehabilitation with the continuing everyday for the rest of aperson's life exercise program. Am 62 years old now.