Symptoms of a Heart Attack and Indigestion

Indigestion (also known as stomach upset or dyspepsia) is a common problem that causes feelings of fullness and bloating during and after meals 1. Indigestion is usually caused by stress or eating too much too quickly, though it can sometimes be the result of another underlying health problem 1. In rare cases, its symptoms may be mistaken for a heart attack. Heart attacks are caused by blocked blood flow to one of the coronary arteries, and its consequences can be fatal. The symptoms of heart attack and indigestion are outlined below 1.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Most heart attacks come on slowly. The most common symptom for both men and women is chest pain, pressure, fullness or tightness. In some cases, discomfort in the chest might last for a few minutes, then go away, only to come back again soon after. This chest pain can be accompanied by pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach. Shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, or a cold sweat can also be present. Women can be more likely to experience subtle symptoms and symptoms unrelated to chest pain than men. Some of these symptoms include unexplainable fatigue, sweating, sleep disturbances, indigestion, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, anxiety, and dizziness or lightheadedness 1.

Symptoms of Indigestion

Indigestion, or dyspepsia, is a general term for discomfort, pain or burning in the stomach or upper abdomen 1. Many people with indigestion report uncomfortable feelings of fullness during and after a meal, often to the point that they cannot finish the meal 1. It might feel as if the food is stuck in the stomach and will not digest, leading to bloating, belching, and gas. Other less common symptoms might include nausea, vomiting, heartburn, an acidic taste in the back of the mouth, or a growling stomach. Dyspepsia is typically accompanied by epigastric burning or pain, an unpleasant sensation in the area between the bottom of the chest bone and the naval. Symptoms of indigestion can be more likely to develop or worsen in response to eating too much, eating high-fat or spicy foods, eating too fast, eating under stressful conditions, or drinking too many alcoholic or caffeinated beverages 1. Those who experience chronic, ongoing indigestion that is not caused by an ulcer or other underlying disease are said to have “functional dyspepsia." 1

Distinguishing Indigestion Symptoms

Symptoms of more serious digestive conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or heartburn can sometimes be confused with indigestion 1. These conditions are characterized by acid reflux (stomach acid rising up the esophagus and into the back of the mouth), and, although they also cause burning and pain in the chest, are distinct conditions. A person may, for example, have both indigestion and heartburn 1.

Because indigestion causes chest pain and burning, some might also confuse it with symptoms of a heart attack 1. If you have indigestion symptoms that persist for more than 2 weeks, or you experience frequent vomiting or blood in vomit, black or tarry stools, weight loss or appetite loss, or difficulties swallowing, you should contact your doctor as these symptoms are likely the result of a different health problem 1. If you experience shortness of breath, excessive perspiration, abdominal pain in a non-epigastric area, or radiating pain to the neck, jaw, or arm, you might be experiencing symptoms of a heart attack and should seek emergency care right away.