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Is It Heartburn or a Heart Attack?

rerun image You have pain that starts in your chest and moves up your throat. You want to assume it’s heartburn but the worry about a heart attack is in the back of your mind. It is not unusual for people to mistake symptoms of heart disease for heartburn. Many people have also gone to the emergency room out of fear of a heart attack, only to find out it was severe heartburn. In truth, the symptoms can be very similar. In fact, it often takes medical testing to determine the true cause.

Pain May Be Difficult to Distinguish

Here are some facts that may help.

Possible Signs of Heartburn

Note: Call for emergency medical services right away if you have any chest pain. Even if you think it may be heartburn.

Possible Signs of Angina or Heart Attack

Other symptoms may include:

Other Causes of Chest Pain

Heartburn and heart attacks are not the only conditions that can cause chest pain. Other problems that can cause chest pain include:

Seeking Medical Attention for Chest Pain

It can be hard to determine the cause of chest pain. Call for emergency medical services right away if you have any chest pain. Especially if you have other signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

Do not have someone drive you to the hospital. Emergency medical crews can provide treatment on the way to the hospital. The sooner treatment is given the better the outcomes for heart attacks.


The American College of Gastroenterology

American Heart Association


Canadian Cardiovascular Society

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 11, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2016.

Heart attack. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/Heart-Attack_UCM_001092_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed May 10, 2016.

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd. Accessed May 10, 2016.

ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 5, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2016.

Last reviewed May 2018 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 7/21/2018