House Calls

Roger Acheatel, M.D.

Escondido Cardiology Associates

"How can I tell if the burning sensation in my ches is just heartburn or if it really is a heart attack?"

Answer: “Because the symptoms are often similar, there is almost no way to know for certain if your discomfort is due to heartburn or if the burning in your chest signals a potentially life threatening heart attack. That’s why it is best to call 9-1-1 for help or go quickly to the nearest emergency room, rather than try to decide for yourself.

Almost everyone will experience heartburn at some time. It often occurs after a big, rich meal when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus leaving a sour taste in your mouth. Frequent heartburn is actually a symptom of a gastro-intestinal condition called gastroesophogeal reflux disease, which should be evaluated and treated by your physician.

Survival from a heart attack depends on what happens during the first few hours after symptoms begin. Lifesaving drugs and treatment to open blocked arteries and restore blood flow to the heart muscle must be initiated quickly in order to reduce the risk of death or disability.

Last year, Palomar Health introduced a community campaign, Dial, Don’t Drive, that teaches the public to recognize the symptoms of heart attack and call 9-1-1 when someone has chest pain. This helps start treatment sooner because our hospitals have teamed with area paramedics who use 12-lead EKG machines to transmit information directly to a cardiologist waiting at a nearby emergency room. In that way, evaluation and treatment can be started much more quickly.

The most important thing to remember is to seek medical assistance rather than making own diagnosis when it comes to matters of the heart.”