Chest pain – heart attack or heartburn?
Most emergency visits in a hospital are because of moderate to severe chest pain that people mistakenly take as a heart attack. However, according to hospital statistics, more than 95% of Chest pains are due to non-cardiac reasons. In simple words, most chest pains are not related to heart.
Next step is to be able to differentiate different types of Chest pains. Vast majority of Chest pains are due to gastric trouble or acidity (also called heart-burn). Pain due to heartburn mimics a heart attack in many circumstances as like heart attack:
- Most episodes are reported at night-time or during sleep.
- Associated symptoms are similar like increase in heart-rate, sweating, anxiety and irritability
- Like most cardiac patients, heartburn is also more common in Type “A” personalities.
Although, most people cannot stop themselves from getting caught up in a panic attack, it is important to know that heartburn is a harmless condition in early stages but if left untreated may lead to severe consequences. In order to treat heart-burn, it is important to know about heart-burn.
What is Heart-burn?
Heartburn is a subjective feeling of burning pain in the stomach or left side of the heart. Sometimes it is felt like a pricking sensation in the chest region and sometimes it feels like chest irritation and sometimes it is hard to explain the sensation. Much of the times, it is due to acid reflux from the stomach into feeding tube or esophagus. Because Nature has designed an efficient valve at the junction of stomach and feeding tube to prevent stomach acid from getting back into the food pipe, most people do not face this problem. However, if integrity of this valve is affected, acid may affect the walls of feeding tube and lead to symptoms of heartburn.
What causes Heart-burn?
Following are very strong risk factors for the development of heart-burn that mimics heart attack and lead to emergency visits to the hospital:
Alcohol consumption: Alcohol decreases the strength of valve between esophagus and stomach leading to backwash of acid into the feeding tube, leading to heart-burn
Smoking and caffeine works through similar mechanisms.
Spicy foods: Apart from these, over eating some acidic or spicy foods are also known to trigger acid reflux creating heartburn.
How to avoid heart-burn?
Following tips may help you from lowering your heartburn episodes:
Dietary modification: In order to avoid chest pain due to heartburn, follow simple guidelines like:
- Minimize consumption of coffee, caffeine and other coca containing beverages as coca stimulates acid secretion from stomach.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption, especially if you have stressful life.
- Avoid eating fatty and spicy meals for dinners as spicy and fatty meals take longer to digest and stimulate to release more acid and hormones from the body.
- Do not lie down immediately after meals. Sit or walk for at least 30 to 45 minutes after any meal.
- Consume your dinner as early in the evening as possible to ensure maximum digestion.
If your symptoms are not improving with above tips, you must consult your physician for the confirmation of bacterial infection in stomach with H. Pylori, a strong causative factor in development of heartburn due to increase acid production by stomach cells.