What is the Connection Between Indigestion and Heart Attack?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2016
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Indigestion and heart attack are related because many times patients who think they are having heartburn or digestive upset are actually suffering from a heart attack. Many of the sensations and symptoms associated with indigestion are also common with cardiac distress. This means that sometimes heart attack symptoms go unnoticed or underreported by the patient because he believes he is suffering from indigestion, often resulting in a longer recovery or even death. In some cases, physicians may also have a hard time distinguishing between both conditions in patients who are complaining of generalized chest pain.

The reason many people can confuse the symptoms of indigestion with a heart attack is because both syndromes occur in close proximity of one another. The lower esophagus and upper stomach sit just above and below the heart muscle. Early heart attack symptoms are very similar to the burning sensation, uneasiness, and tightness associated with indigestion. In fact, many patients have gone in to the emergency room believing they were having a heart attack, only to be told they were suffering from trapped intestinal gas that had risen into the upper digestive tract.


Although sometimes subtle, there are some differences between indigestion and heart attack symptoms. Indigestion should generally be limited to the chest and stomach area, while a true heart attack may begin there and radiate into the left arm or shoulder. If severe vomiting, nausea, or shortness of breath are present, it should be assumed that the patient is not suffering from indigestion and medical treatment should be sought.

While many would believe that a heart attack is much more painful than indigestion, this is not always the case. In some instances, intestinal gas or stomach acid can cause severe pain in the chest cavity that can easily be confused with a heart attack. Patients have described the sensations as stabbing, aching, or pulsing. This why sometimes a doctor cannot tell the difference between indigestion and heart attack until further testing is completed.

As a general rule of thumb, one may be able to tell the difference between indigestion and heart attack by trying a few basic pain relief tactics. For instance, pain from indigestion may be alleviated by changing positions to a more upright posture, while a heart attack would not be affected. Over the counter medications, like antacids, may also help alleviate symptoms of indigestion but would have no effect on heart attack symptoms.


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Post 3

@fify-- Unless you carry a risk of heart attacks, that's not a very good idea. Have you seen a doctor about your symptoms? If your heart is fine, but have stomach issues, don't take aspirin even if it feels like a heart attack. Taking a pain reliever can cause ulcers in an already sensitive stomach.

My suggestion would be to take antacids and sit upright. If it happens at night, sleep with three pillows under your head to keep the acidity down. You can sip on warm milk or water as well.

If these don't work and you start experiencing other symptoms, then you should go to the hospital. Also keep in mind that the thought of having a heart attack can lead to anxiety and increased blood pressure or heart palpitations. So try to avoid assuming this unless you're really experiencing signs of a heart attack.

Post 2

Sometimes I have severe pain in my chest area and I have difficulty breathing because of indigestion. When I have such pain and I'm not sure what's causing it, should I take an aspirin just in case?

Post 1

A heart attack can seem like indigestion but it can go the other way too, indigestion can seem like a heart attack.

When the stomach produces too much acid due to indigestion, the acid travels up into the esophagus and causes irritation and inflammation there. Because of the proximity of the esophagus and the heart to one another, indigestion can seem like a heart attack.

I had acid reflux disease several years ago and a few times, I went to the hospital confusing my acid reflux symptoms with symptoms of a heart attack.

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