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Is It Heartburn or a Heart Attack?

Know the key differences between heartburn and a heart attack.

If you have any chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or any warning signs of a heart attack (for example, pain spreading to the arms, neck, or shoulders with shortness of breath, sweating, or lightheadedness), seek immediate medical attention.

Heartburn affects different people in different ways, but the symptoms of heartburn are generally described as:

  • A burning chest pain that begins at the breastbone and may move up toward the throat

  • A feeling that food is coming back into the mouth

  • An acidic or bitter taste at the back of the throat

  • An increase in severity of pain when you are lying down or bending over

The pain associated with a heart attack can also be felt in the chest. And although only a doctor can determine whether you’ve suffered a heart attack, common heart attack or angina symptoms include:

  • A feeling of fullness, tightness, or dull pressure or pain, generally in the center of the chest

  • Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck, or arms

  • A cold sweat

  • Lightheadedness, weakness, or dizziness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea and possible vomiting

Additional key differences between heartburn and a heart attack:

  • Heartburn pain generally doesn’t radiate to the shoulders, neck, or arms, though it can

  • Heartburn pain usually comes after meals

  • Heartburn symptoms usually respond quickly to antacids

  • Heartburn is rarely accompanied by a cold sweat, lightheadedness, or dizziness