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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Adult and Senior Health HEARTBURN OR HEART ATTACK?


Heart pain can show up any time and it makes us think whether we did some over eating last night or it’s actually a heart attack. There could be many overlapping symptoms for the two conditions and their management could overlap as well. People may have taken few medicines at home before they reach emergency. Heart burn usually happens when the stomach acid bubbles up into the food pipe causing a painful burning just behind the breastbone. Many times it is confused with heart attack and may result in an unnecessary visit to hospital emergency.


True heart pain is caused due to insufficient blood supply to the heart muscle and may result in angina or even heart attack. It is often described as a feeling of tightness, constriction, pressure or maybe a burning sensation similar to heart burn. If heart pain is brought on by exercise, then it’s probably heart related. It may also be accompanied by other symptoms like difficulty in breathing, excessive sweating with pain, turning pale, or becoming weak during episode. If uncertain about cause of heart pain, then it’s better to visit emergency as soon as possible. There a team of emergency physician, cardiologist and gastroenterologist may work with you to figure out the cause.

The symptoms of the two conditions are enumerated below:

·         Heart attack

·         Tightness, pressure, squeezing, stabbing, or dull pain, mostly in the center of the chest or below breast bone

·         Chest pain that spreads to the left shoulder, neck, or arm. Sometimes it may radiate to both shoulders

·         Cold sweat

·         Lightheadedness, weakness, or dizziness

·         Difficulty in breathing

·         Nausea

·         Stress in background or physical exertion brought on the heart pain

·         Heartburn (GERD)

·         Burning chest pain

·         Pain that moves up toward your throat but doesn't spread to shoulders, neck, or arms

·         Feeling of food coming up into mouth

·         Bitter or acidic taste in the throat

·         Pain gets worse on lying down or bending over

·         The appearance of symptoms after a heavy or spicy meal


Managing the heart pain

In heart attacks it is important to avoid formation of clots. Aspirin in low dose is taken by people with heart pain to prevent formation of clots. Other medicines are prescribed by cardiologist like clopidogrel, etc. These medicines may increase bleeding risk and therefore should be taken under medical supervision. Stress reduction techniques like breathing techniques are helpful in managing these cases.

Managing the heart burn

It is advisable to take antacids like gelusil or proton pump inhibitors like pantoprazole and omeprazole to control the heart burn. However dietary changes are equally important in managing heart burn like avoiding spicy foods, taking meals at same time every day, eating less than capacity of stomach, avoiding raw foods, etc.

Smoking and alcohol are best avoided in both conditions. If obese, then weight loss also helps in both conditions. ECG is mandatory in all cases of chest pain to rule out heart problems.


Ask A Cardiologist online if you need definite medical attention or the condition will clear with antacids alone. They can review your symptoms, history and investigations like ECG and guide you accordingly.

Written by Dr Vaishalee Punj