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    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Is it Heartburn or a Heart Attack?

    Part I of II :GERD

    The experts say “It doesn’t often begins as a sharp, burning sensation in the chest. Many times it seems either like a pressure or burning or indigestion in the chest.”

    Is the pain heartburn, or might it be a heart attack?

    It's often difficult for people to tell the difference. Complicating the issue is that some people with diagnosed heart disease will also have heartburn, Those are the patients who want to say, 'Oh, this is just heartburn' and not worry about it. If, however, you have any heart history, a cardiologist should be consulted.

    But even people without known heart disease who have heartburn shouldn't always just pop an over-the-counter antacid either. Overreacting in seeking medical help is always better than under-reacting.

    In the common variety heartburn, or GERD [ gastro-esophageal reflux disorder] stomach acid moves up into the esophagus and causes irritation. It might require a doctor's intervention, to rule out that what a person is feeling stems from heartburn and not heart problems, which can have similar symptoms.

    So what's a person to do?

    Pay attention to the pattern of heartburn. If people have heartburn on a regular basis after eating specific foods -- every time they eat a greasy pepperoni pizza or drink a large glass of orange juice, for instance -- the food is generally the origin of the symptoms. If, however, if they start having “heartburn” and have not eaten any of the food or drinks that previously triggered a heartburn episode. That would merit a call for medical help.

    Pay attention to when the heartburn occurs. If the heartburn follows consumption of a specific food, it's probably run-of-the-mill heartburn, which when it becomes severe will need prompt medical attention.

    See a doctor if heartburn is severe and begins to affect quality of life. A medical visit in such an instance, though, would not be as urgently needed as it would be for those with pain and swallowing problems along with heartburn.

    If heartburn is a new experience, have it checked out asap. That needs to be evaluated pretty quickly because people with first-time heartburn and risk factors for heart disease -- including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, a family history of heart problems and active cigarette smoking -- should seek prompt medical help.

    Other “red flag” reasons to quickly talk to a doctor or go to the emergency room.

    • If heartburn accompanies exercise or other exertion.

    • If a severe episode of heartburn does not get better with antacids. Garden-variety heartburn should subside fairly quickly. An episode might last up to a few hours, and then disappear in varying lengths of time, depending on the type of remedy used to combat it. "If you take an antacid, their effect is usually immediate," "If you take an H-2 blocker [such as Zantac or Tagamet], it may be 30 minutes.

    • If heartburn comes with other symptoms, such as shortness of breath or arm pain.

    Please remember, as with all our articles we provide information, not medical advice.

    For any treatment of your own medical condition you must visit your local doctor, with or without our article[s]. These articles are not to be taken as individual medical advice.

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