Heartburn VS Heart Attack: Difference Between The Chest Pains

Heartburn VS Heart Attack

Heartburn and heart attack are two different conditions that have a similar symptom, which is chest pain. If there is any confusion about the chest pain indicating a heart attack or heartburn, immediate medical attention would be needed. Since heart attacks are a medical emergency, it can get challenging to tell if popping an antacid pill would suffice for the chest pain.

For example, if the person has eaten a big meal and feels a burning sensation in their chest, it could pass off as heartburn. There is also a chance of pain being caused due to reduced blood flow to the heart, leading to a heart attack. This makes it essential to know about the difference between these conditions.

Heart Attack

A heart attack is often caused by a sudden and sometimes fatal occurrence of coronary thrombosis, or blockage in the coronary arteries. These arteries are blood vessels that supply blood to the heart, keeping it functioning and alive with energy and oxygen.

Coronary thrombosis frequently produces chest pain along with chances of additional pain that may radiate to the neck, jaw, and arms. Heart attacks can lead to heart-stopping. This is called a cardiac arrest, where the person will not be responsive and have no pulse.

Various arteries in the heart supply blood to different chambers of the heart. In some cases, an individual’s symptoms can vary because of where they are experiencing their heart attack. Other times, the signs are different since people’s bodies respond in numerous ways to the lack of blood flow and oxygen.


Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Discomfort, heaviness, pressure, tightness, pain, or squeezing in the chest, arms, or below the breastbone.
  • Fullness, indigestion, or a suffocating and choking sensation, that may feel like a heartburn
  • Sweating, upset stomach, dizziness, and vomiting
  • Discomfort that continues into the back, throat, jaw, and arms
  • Severe weakness, fatigue, anxiety, or shortness of breath
  • Fast or uneven heartbeat

Women experience different heart attack symptoms. While men may go through chest pains as their primary indicator of a heart attack, women may hardly feel any chest pain. It is more of tightness or pressure on their upper body. Discomfort in the neck, jaw, upper back, and the abdomen, along with pain in one or both arms may be a better indicator.

They also tend to have symptoms more often while resting, or even when asleep, when compared to men. Emotion stress can play a major role in triggering heart attack symptoms in women. Many times they are diagnosed less often with heart disease than men are.


Heartburn is a symptom of another condition, mainly gastroesophageal reflux disease, and it is not a disease by itself. It is usually a sensation of burning pain caused by acid reflux. Acid reflux takes place when the contents of the stomach are pushed up in the esophagus, along with the stomach acid.

Even though this symptom is termed ‘heartburn’, it is not related to the heart in any wat. The confusion arises from the location of the pain, in the chest, caused by acid reflux. The stomach’s walls produce mucus to protect its lining from the acid it uses to aid in digestion. The food pipe lacks this protective feature, this being sensitive to the acid.

The pain may begin at the breastbone and travel up towards the throat. There might be a feeling of food coming back into the mouth, and having an acidic or bitter taste in the throat. This included severe pain when bending over, or laying down.


Primary signs of heartburns include an uncomfortable burning sensation that starts in the upper part of the stomach and radiates to the chest. Some other prominent signs are:

  • Sour, bitter, or acidic taste in the mouth
  • Feeling an acidic or burning sensation creeping up the chest when laying down
  • Pain that disrupts sleep, particularly when a large meal is consumed before bedtime
  • Hurt or discomfort that usually takes place after eating

Heartburns habitually take place alongside other gastrointestinal issues, such as sores or ulcers that develop in the lining of the esophagus and stomach, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If the heartburn is not treated immediately, symptoms like these may occur:

  • Painful swallowing
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating while going through chest pain
  • Dark, tarry, or bloody stools
  • Pain that goes along the back and shoulders
  • Shortness of breath

Heartburn and Heart Attack Checklist

Confusion and doubt over the issue at hand is heartburn or a heart attack can be guided by using a small checklist, which comprises of points such as:

What procedures make the symptoms better?

Signs of acid reflux would start fading when the person sits upright and administers heartburn medication, such as antacids, to reduce the pain. Lying down or bending over may increase the pain.

When was the last food item consumed?

Heartburn would show its symptoms within 2 hours of the last meal. Signs of heart attack are not related to eating.

Where is the pain radiating?

Pain goes up the throat with acid reflux, while pain related to heart attacks may spread all over the upper body.

Is the person short of breath, or sweating?

Sweating and shortness of breath due to heartburn should not be severe. They may indicate a heart attack depending on its severity.

Other Causes of Chest Pain

Chest pain may be caused due to several reasons other than a heartburn or heart attack. Some other reasons for discomfort in the chest may be:


It is a condition where the tissues in the chest walls are inflamed, primarily due to intense coughing or inflammation from an infection. The flu or certain medications can also cause this inflammation. The chest pain worsens during breathing.

Anxiety Attack:

Anxiety without an outlet builds up badly within the body. Severe bouts of anxiety can cause panicked emotions that may make the person feel as if they are dying. The chest pain may be accompanied by shortness of breath and intense, irrational fear.

Gallbladder Pain:

The primary function of the gallbladder involves releasing bile into the body so that fats are digested. The organ can be blocked up or diseased, which leads to symptoms such as pain in the shoulders, necks, and arms, along with nausea and vomiting.

Esophageal Muscle Spasm:

There are many cases where people have an esophagus that tightens or spasms. This can also occur at the end of the food pipe where the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, is located. They can have discomfort and pain, which may affect the chest area.


Ignorance of potential signs of heart attack would result in irreversible damage or loss of life. Thus, when in doubt, the best option is to seek medical emergency attention. This ensures that the prognosis of a heart attack would remain minimal.