Most people experience minor twinges of chest pain now and then. And when it happens, we can't help but wonder if it is something serious. Is it heartburn or a heart attack?
These two maladies have similar symptoms, but very different outcomes. Delaying treatment of heart attack may cost you your life. On the other hand, no one wants to take an ambulance trip if the pain could be cleared up with an antacid.
"The reason that heartburn has 'heart' in its name is because it's extremely difficult to differentiate a heart attack from heartburn," says Harvey Kramer, M.D., director of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Danbury (Conn.) Hospital.
This first thing to consider is your heart attack risk, according to Chauncey Crandall, M.D. "People with coronary heart disease, heart attack survivors, or those who have undergone coronary artery bypass surgery or had a stent implanted should not hesitate to get help," says Dr. Crandall, chief of the Cardiac Transplant Program at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic.
If you are over 50, have a family history of heart disease, have high blood pressure, diabetes, are obese, or inactive, you are also at greater risk and should err on the side of caution.
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Alert: What Is Your Risk for a Heart Attack? Find Out Now