Angina Pain or Acidity?
Here's how to be sure
Imagine this, it’s Friday evening – the day has been long and stressful, one meeting after another, impossible deadlines are looming in the near future, and the traffic, as you make your way to an evening dinner, hasn’t made things better for you. You reach, and a few minutes later, as you devour that heavy meal and gulp down the drinks, you feel like it was all worth it.
The next day arrives and brings with it something that was definitely not on the menu last night. There’s a weird heaviness in your chest region, your stomach feels like a mixer-grinder with its contents ready to spill out, your throat is on fire and you feel weak, and then the dizziness sets in.
And as discomforting as the entire ordeal was for you, you’ll think that it’s probably just the worst acidity attack you have ever had. The chances are, it could be something much worse. It could be angina, a sign that there is something wrong with your heart.
Distinguishing between angina (chest pain) and acidity is difficult for any non-medical person as their symptoms are so similar. In fact, they resemble each other so closely that even a physician can only differentiate between them with the help of an ECG.
So, what is the difference between the two?
Acidity or Acid reflux is a stomach- or digestion-related complaint. It occurs when there is a backward flow of stomach acid into your food pipe (the tube that connects the throat and the stomach). You may feel nauseous and even feel like your chest (and sometimes even your throat) is on fire.
On the other hand, angina is a heart-related complaint. It is the heaviness or discomfort that occurs if an area of your heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood.
Both acid reflux and angina can occur after consumption of heavy meals. Acid reflux which may occur following a heavy meal can trigger chest pain, the reason being that a heavy meal makes the heart work faster, which may cause chest pain.
Thus, there is a close resemblance between symptoms of angina and acid reflux often leading to confusion and misdiagnosis. The most identifiable difference lies in the type of chest pain you will experience.
If your chest pain gets worse with exertion and improves on resting then it is more likely to be angina. You may feel as if someone is clenching or squeezing your heart. Angina pain is likely to travel from your chest to your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back. Along with this, you may also experience nausea, heartburn, and vomiting.
On the other hand, chest pain associated with indigestion is likely to worsen on lying down or bending forward.
The main problem is that you can never be absolutely sure and thus it is best to immediately consult your physician so as to reach the root of the problem through proper investigations (like an ECG), you may even need a stress test.
Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on several factors including your symptoms, clinical examination, test results and after considering your risk factors for heart disease.