Heart attack, or just indigestion? How to tell the difference… 19



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Some days it’s scarily easy to dismiss heart attacks as something that happens to other people. At other times, we can break into a panic at the slightest bit of digestive discomfort. When should chest pain actually worry us?

The following tips will help you distinguish a heart attack from other, more trivial digestive concerns.

 The pain spreads beyond your chest

Generally speaking, indigestion should not cause discomfort in other areas of the body. If you notice pain or numbness in your jaw, teeth, arm or upper back, it could by a symptom of something more serious.

It’s most common for women to feel something wrong in other areas of the body. Men are more likely to feel a crushing weight on the chest.

You feel pressure, burning or tightness

According to Mayo Clinic, these are feelings are among the biggest hints you should be taking the pain seriously.

Other heart attack symptoms include feelings of breathlessness, sweatiness, dizziness, nausea and even vomiting. Your body will very quickly tell you something is wrong; stay tuned for these warning signs.

It doesn’t go away through traditional means

Sometimes heart attacks can happen slowly and subtly, making them easy to dismiss.  It’s worth remembering that heartburn and indigestion will usually go away after taking an antacid and drinking milk or water. If it persists – even as mild discomfort – there could be cause for concern.

It happens with activity or emotional turbulence

While most of us are aware of the effect exercise can have on our hearts, the impact of emotional stress can be just as significant. Distress can reduce the flow of blood to the heart – sometimes down to one third – and women are particularly at risk of this form of heart attack.

Your instinct says something is wrong

As often as our brains can lie to us and overreact, this is one area where you should listen to your intuition. According to Everyday Health, many surviving patients have told doctors they simply had a sense that something was very wrong.

You’re simply not sure

If you’re uncertain, please play it safe. Call 000 immediately. They can walk you through the symptoms and help you identify the issue.

Have you ever had this scare? What other tips would you share with the Starts at 60 community for identifying a heart attack? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. Or angina. I had the pain across my front, just below my chest. It gradually got worse and I started to get short of breath. An ambulance was called and after having a heap of tests in hospital, which showed it wasn’t a stroke or heart attack, it was diagnose as angina. So now I carry a pump which you spray under the tongue and it works really fast. It’s a bugger getting old.

  2. I had nasty indigestion last night. Didn’t panic, but kept checking my heartbeat ((have AF). Also charged up my iPhone in case I needed to call an ambulance.

  3. Important tip.. If you feel something is wrong but your doctor won’t listen to you, find another doctor.

  4. I had a couple of months with vague sensations in the back of my throat in the evenings. Only when it occurred in the morning and my husband found out did I go to ER. Stent in a coronary artery that afternoon. I hadn’t told either my husband or GP so my negligence all along.

    1 REPLY
    • Vague and different symptoms is often in the history of survivors.
      Mild dull ache in one spot, not necessarily across chest.
      Sudden short of breathe walking a bit harder than usual.
      Some people get symptoms of angina ( reduced oxygen to heart due to narrowing of artery or spasm) for days or weeks before an actual heart attack ( total blockage)
      Almost half of heart attacks don’t make it to hospital so if you are lucky enough to get warning signs then act on it.
      I believe everyone over 45 should have a stress test.
      Not all heart attacks get forewarned.
      Some people live with angina on effort but can open arteries with under the tongue spray when they get symptoms.
      They won’t operate unless the narrowing is serious.
      If you have a parent or immediate family who has had AMI stent or Bypass and you are over 35 go get checked out!!
      Some people are walking around with almost blocked arteries in their heart muscle and don’t know until one day when they do a harder workload than they are used to or they have emotional stress.

  5. This happened to me in 1992, l was 49 yrs of age at 2 am in the morning, l had to have ballooning done to 2 of my arteries they were 95 percent blocked. I was very lucky, lived very close to hospital, the doctor said l should have rang for a ambulance instead of been driven to hospital, because they can work on you on the way. I am now 72 Yrs of age now & never had another problem with heart so far, l resigned from my very stressful job. Healthy eating, walking & just moving & not sitting too much, but the biggest thing in life is your stress level. You will know if you are having a heart attack it’s like indigestion but much more painful , pain in your shoulder, back, chin & down your arm, sweaty & feeling sick in the stomach , it effects everyone differently, call for help straight away.

  6. I was having pains in the chest on many occasions, at first I went to emergency and they were great, after seeing a heart specialist and lots of tests they said it was inconclusive, told me to loose weight. The pain continued and when it got too bad I went to a new GP as I had just moved house, he sent me straight to a specialist surgeon who agreed with his verdict, gall bladder trouble, within days it was out, I have not had the slightest bit of trouble since. Both Drs said I had done the right thing in seeking help as it could easily have been something worse, if in doubt check it out.

  7. Goodness, I would hope that I would know the difference between a heart attack and indigestion !!!

    3 REPLY
    • Not necessarily Wendy. My husband complained about indigestion all morning and was sucking antacid tablets until someone convinced him to go to the doctor. The doctor sent him to hospital in an ambulance and he had three stents inserted!

    • I thought mine was indigestion at first. But when the pain escalated into the shoulders, arms and jaw I knew it wasn’t and got the ambulance. 50 yrs old and having a heart attack somehow didn’t fit in with my plans for life!

  8. Two attacks of severe central chest pain, trip to ED both times by ambulance. All clear in the heart department, but further tests showed problem with my oesophagus, (gullet), dismotility of the oesophagus, having severe spasms, literally an oesophagus attack. I use the same spray that is used for angina to relax the smooth muscle in my gullet, and carry it all the time. Though haven’t had one for a while now. Symptoms very similar, and pain in the same region as cardiac pain, but no sweating or clamminess.

  9. Breathless to the point of unable to ask for help with chest pain in airport not one person asked if I was ok…but I survived

  10. Not necessarily Wendy. i thought I had indigestion. Started about 8 pm…I was 55 and on holiday in Tasmania. Had nausea and vomiting over the next few hours…things didn’t escalate until about 4 am….sweating/pain down left arm/ neck/ felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest….not really pain…just couldn’t breathe….90% blockage main right artery. Stent inserted at Launceston Hospital. Nearly 9 years later still kicking!!!!!!

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