Heartburn or Heart Attack?: May 17, 2019

It can come on suddenly and cause severe chest pain. “A lot of people don’t’ come in complaining of heartburn, they complain of chest pain, and they are worried it’s their heart,” said Dr. Andre Nye, a family medicine physician with Lee Health.

Heartburn happens when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus—many of the symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, and nausea can mimic those of a heart attack. “You have to be very receptive to their complaint, and you have to be validating that it could possibly be their heart, so I typically do an EKG, I look for any abnormalities, I ask them whether or not they have chest pain when they exercise,” explained Dr. Nye.

Patients often confuse heartburn with having a heart attack—but if all tests come back normal, the symptoms are likely not related to a heart problem. “They do have pain, let’s say when they have a meal, and they go and lie down at night, and they get this crushing chest pain, then it’s probably heartburn,” he said.

Diet modifications can lower your risk for heartburn. Things like spicy food, peppermint, coffee, chocolate, and alcohol can trigger heartburn symptoms. “Avoid eating within two hours of going to bed because your heartburn will be greatest at that point,” said Dr. Nye.

Things like milk and over-the-counter medications can help to alleviate heartburn symptoms. If the symptoms get worse, go to the hospital. When in doubt—have it checked out.