Chest pain can be a very scary, serious issue. If you are one of many Americans at risk for heart disease, it can be even more frightening. But sometimes chest pain isn’t heart related, it is a digestive issue.
Heartburn, or it’s more serious cousin acid reflux, affects millions of people everyday. The symptoms of both heart problems and acid reflux are very similar, but the treatment is obviously very different. It’s easy to mistake one for the other because the esophagus is located behind the heart in the chest cavity.
Identifying the real problem when you have chest pain is very important. Here’s a few things to look out for. But remember, when in doubt see your health care provider.
1. Burning in the throat due to stomach acid. This is an extension of the heartburn pain caused by acid reflux. Pain caused by stomach acid regurgitating into the esophagus and mouth is due to acid reflux, not heart problems.
2. Chest pain that begins or increases with exercise is more likely due to a heart problem. Acid reflux symptoms don’t change with physical exertion. The heart experiences stress during physical exercise that can manifest potential problems within.
3. Coughing, wheezing, breathing problems, acid regurgitation, bitterness in the mouth: these are all signs of acid reflux disease. The acid entering the esophagus is to blame for each of these symptoms, some of which can be very pronounced. Pregnant women seem to be prone to heartburn during the last two trimesters where a growing fetus crowds the space the stomach normally occupies. For these women, and others in high risk groups, understanding their propensity to heartburn is also important. For example, some pregnant women with chest pain find themselves in the hospital thinking they are having heart attacks, when in fact they are having very serious acid reflux. Again, knowing you are susceptible to acid reflux can help you identify the cause of your symptoms.
4. Numbness or tingling in the arm or arms can be a symptom of a heart attack, and is generally not a symptom of acid reflux. Obviously these symptoms are serious and should be treated immediately by a health care professional.
5. Increased pain after meals is usually a symptom of acid reflux disease. Overeating or bending over after eating can exacerbate the problems, which are not heart related. The extra acid a stomach releases to digest food is to blame for the increased discomfort after meals. While these acids are effective in helping the digestive process, they can be very detrimental for those who suffer from acid reflux disease.
Acid reflux disease and heart disease do share some of the same symptoms, but with careful attention and the help of a health care professional, you can determine which of these issues is causing your chest pain.