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  • Writer's pictureHeather

Clues That Heartburn May Indicate Something Else

It is very likely, all of us have experienced some form of heartburn in our lives. We ate something that didn’t agree with us. We ate too much, or we ate too fast. Then suddenly, we are uncomfortable and wish the pain in our chest would just go away.

Despite its name, heartburn — or acid indigestion — is related to our esophagus. But because the esophagus and heart are located near each other, either one can cause chest pain which is why many people mistake heart burn for angina (heart or chest pain) and vice versa.

Heartburn is a common condition that’s caused by stomach acids rising up into our esophagus. This can cause chest pain, nausea and even vomiting in more severe cases. Our stomach is made for acid and can handle it, but our esophagus is not. This is why we experience heartburn or acid indigestion when stomach acids get into our esophagus.

How do we tell if heartburn is actually something more serious? What if we think we are just having some heartburn from that spicy Mexican lunch, but we are really experiencing symptoms of serious heart problems?

  • If we belch and the symptoms go away, it probably isn’t related to our heart, but involves our esophagus (acid reflux or heartburn). If we have shortness of breath or sweating combined with our heartburn, then it’s more likely a heart-related issue.

  • If heartburn-like pain occurs more than twice a week it is time to get things checked out. Experiencing heartburn regularly can be a warning sign of problems that are not related to the stomach.

  • If symptoms persist despite the use of nonprescription heartburn medication, it is time to see a health care professional. Over-the-counter medications for acid reflux are typically effective in relieving the symptoms of heartburn. If these medications are not doing the job anymore, it is time to see the Doctor.

  • If the pain from what we think is heartburn radiates up our chest, into our shoulder, arm, neck or jaw, this is an indicator we may have something more serious going on. Radiating pain is telling us we need some attention from a healthcare professional.

If we are experiencing heartburn, there are several things we can do in a proactive manner. Positive changes we can make are:

  1. Avoid foods that are acidic or high in fat like citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, chocolate, coffee, cheese, and peppermint.

  2. Avoid spicy foods and large meals. Unfortunately, the buffet lunch at our local Mexican restaurant is not our friend if we suffer with heartburn.

  3. Other sources of heartburn include aspirin or ibuprofen, as well as some sedatives and blood pressure medications. Unless specifically recommended to be taken on an empty stomach, it is usually better to take any medication with food.

  4. Avoid cigarette smoking and tobacco products. Tobacco relaxes the smooth muscle that protects our esophagus from the acid in our stomach. Tobacco products often lead to acid reflux and heartburn.

Work to get heartburn under control and make sure it is not an indicator of something more serious. Then go enjoy that spicy lunch.


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