Heartburn and Heart Attack : How They are Different

Heartburn is a painful burning sensation experienced in the chest due to the reflux of acid from the stomach to oesophagus.

The reflux is triggered usually by improper and unhealthy lifestyle with a poor diet that causes the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) muscle to relax.

This muscle guards the stomach and is normally tight under high pressure which prevents its opening and the reflux.

Heartburn is a relatively common condition and can be treated easily by simple medications and herbs but its negligence can lead to the development of chronic heartburn or gastro oesophageal reflux disease ( GERD) which is more complicated than its occasional counterpart [1].

Heartburn has common symptoms including sudden burning pain in the chest, sore muscles, and trouble in swallowing, dizziness, headache, gas and bloating.

Some of these symptoms are similar to those of other diseases like angina, pneumonia, joint inflammation in chest and most importantly heart attack [2] which is why it is important to differentiate the symptoms of heartburn from others to avoid any unwanted situations and future complications.

Heart Attack and its Features

Heart attack or myocardial infarction is a condition where the heart muscle or a part of the heart muscle is not able to get proper oxygen due to lack of blood flow.

It occurs generally due to coronary artery disease, a disorder in which the coronary artery (which is supposed to transport blood to the heart) is blocked and cannot regulate the flow of blood.

This causes a lack of oxygen in the heart muscle(s) and creates pain. If not treated immediately it may lead to multi-organ failure, damage to certain parts of the body and even death [3].

The symptoms of heart attack are sudden chronic chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and upper body discomfort.

Other possible symptoms may include sudden tiredness, nausea, and vomiting.

Its symptoms are very similar to that of gas and heartburn which is why lack of attention may lead to further complications.

Not all heart attacks arise suddenly as shown on television or in some real-life cases. The symptoms may vary from person to person.

Some people may have extremely mild symptoms and some may have severe ones.

None the less, it is important to make out the symptoms clearly and differentiate them from heartburn or any other disorder so that any necessary action can be taken immediately [4].

It has been reported in several cases that most people with chest pain start taking antacids and digestive medications even when there is no relief from them.

These patients diagnose themselves on heartburn without seeking any medical advice when in fact they were experiencing mild angina or a heart attack.

It is important to note here that if taking antacids or heartburn relief medicines also don’t help heal the pain, a doctor should be consulted without delay as it might be a sign of the onset of myocardial ischemia or a pending stronger heart attack [5].

Relationship Between Heartburn and Heart attack

Heartburn, as the name might suggest occurs in the chest area with the symptoms similar to that of a heart attack.

Both might involve a severely overwhelming sense of pain and anxiety, nausea, cramps, etc. among many other common symptoms.

Though heartburn is not remotely related to a heart attack it can be confused with the latter easily. Several arguments suggest the lack of role of heartburn in heart attack and help in differentiating the two.

heart attack and heartburn

Heart Attack and Heartburn – How they are Different

Given below are the 12 best differences between heartburn and heart attack which usually are seen in the occurrence of either of the diseases and may help during an emergency.

  1. Heartburn occurs due to reflux of acid in the oesophagus whereas heart attack occurs due to lack of proper oxygen supply in the heart.
  2. The chest pain in heartburn is concentrated at one point whereas the chest pain in heart attack radiates from the chest to left arm, right arm or both.
  3. Heartburn causes a bitter or sour taste in the mouth due to reflux of acid. A heart attack involves no such change in taste.
  4. Heart attack pains are usually not as persistent as that of heartburn chest pains. Sometimes though, a heart attack may involve a gradual increase in chest pain with it radiating to arms and neck, in which case medical attention should be provided immediately.
  5. Symptoms such as tightness in the chest and shortness of breath are more probable to occur in heart attack than in heartburn.
  6. Pain in heart attack is short lived as compared to that in heartburn because in short amount of time, the body succumbs to the attack if medical care is not provided.
  7. Heart problems are more common to people over 50 with high blood pressure, diabetes or cholesterol.
  8. In case of heart attack in women, sometimes pain in the jaws and back may also be observed as opposed to heartburn [6].
  9. Antacids don’t provide any relief from chest pains in case of heart attack. However, the medications may provide full or a little relief from the pain if its heartburn; depending upon the severity of reflux.
  10. The severity of the pain in heartburn increases while bending or lying down which is usually unlikely in case of heart attack.
  11. Heartburn pain is rarely accompanied by sweating but heart attack most often is.
  12. Heartburn pain mostly comes after meals. There is no specific timing for onset of a heart attack [7].

Symptoms of chronic heartburn and a heart attack are really hard to tell apart.

Thus it is always advised to immediately contact a doctor in case of any doubt, especially when the person doesn’t have a history of heartburn, indigestion or gas.

At the emergency room, tests for heart attack are done first to rule out any possibility of the same in its absence.

Besides knowing the symptoms of heart attack, it is also important to prevent one by following the correct lifestyle, quitting smoking, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet [8].

All these factors not only reduce the chances of heart attack, but also heartburn [9],[10].


Heartburn is not related to a heart attack but both have some similar symptoms and are most often hard to tell apart, even by the experienced medical practitioners unless the full diagnosis is done.

Though heartburn is a frequent cause of chest pains a heart attack can also be the reason for which medical help should be taken immediately.

There are subtle markers which can differentiate between the onset of pain to be an acid attack or due to the heart which should be carefully observed to prevent any future discomforts.

In case of any doubts, it is better to call an ambulance than lose a life.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.