Heart Attack or Acid Reflux?

by Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer

According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. and only about 54 percent of women recognize heart disease as their number one killer. One of the reasons heart disease is so fatal for women is because they delay seeking medical treatment for their symptoms and assume its just acid reflux disease or another less fatal ailment. However, the medical community is quickly learning that different individuals experience both heart attacks and acid reflux in different ways.

For example, when researchers asked women who had experienced a heart attack what they were feeling before their cardiac event, they reported that the symptoms were not present all of the time, but would come and go (very similarly to acid reflux). Their experiences were also extremely varied; some had chest pain and some did not before their heart attack (Albarran, Clarke & Crawford, 2007).

The same is true for acid reflux disease. Different individuals have different symptoms. Some with acid reflux have burning in the chest, but others do not. Sometimes stomach contents come up into the throat with acid reflux but not always. Reflux medication may or may not be effective, even if it is acid reflux.

It was not too long ago that doctors could quickly list the symptoms for a heart attack versus the symptoms of acid reflux disease. We now understand it is not that simple. That is why it is important for you to see your doctor if you suspect either acid reflux or a heart attack (especially if you are a woman). Even the best doctor may not be able to quickly determine the cause of your symptoms, but it is extremely important that you involve him or her as soon as you suspect something is wrong. Your life may depend upon it.

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

Davenport is the founder of Tracyshealthyliving.com. Using the latest scientific research, she helps people live their healthiest lives via one-on-one coaching, corporate talks, and sharing the more than 1,000 health-related articles she's authored.