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Heart Pain After Eating

author image Elle Paula
Elle Paula has a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Framingham State College and a certificate in holistic nutrition from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. She is also a licensed aesthetician with advanced training in skincare and makeup. She plans to continue on with her education, complete a master's degree program in nutrition and, ultimately, become a registered dietitian.
Heart Pain After Eating
Close up of the arteries near the heart Photo Credit kalus/iStock/Getty Images

Experiencing pain in your heart and chest area can be alarming no matter when it occurs. If you experience this pain right after eating, it’s most likely due to heartburn; however, knowing the warning signs of a heart attack may help save your life. You should never take any type of pain in the chest lightly. If you experience heart pain after eating, the safest thing to do is seek medical attention.

Harrowing Heartburn

When you swallow food, it moves down your esophagus into your stomach through a band of muscles called the lower esophageal sphincter. The LES relaxes to allow food to pass into the stomach and then constricts to prevent food and digestive juices from flowing backwards into your esophagus. Heartburn occurs when the LES relaxes or becomes weak, allowing stomach acid to flow into the esophagus. Overeating can put pressure on the LES, making heartburn more likely. Heartburn may also occur as a result of lying down too soon after eating or from certain foods such as spicy foods, fatty foods and caffeine. In addition to pain in the chest area, heartburn may also cause a burning sensation in the throat and a sour taste in your mouth.

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A Word on GERD

If you experience heart pain on a regular basis after you eat something, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse defines GERD as chronic acid reflux that occurs more than twice a week for at least a few weeks. The main symptom of GERD is heartburn. Other symptoms include chest pain, wheezing, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, bad breath, wheezing and a chronic, dry cough. If left untreated, GERD can lead to serious complications, including bleeding of the esophagus, respiratory problems and esophageal strictures. If you think you may have GERD, speak to your doctor about the best ways for you to get the condition under control.

Other Digestive Dilemmas

Heartburn and GERD aren’t the only digestive issues that can cause pain in the heart area after eating. An esophageal spasm, indigestion or a gallbladder attack can have the same effect. A gallbladder attack, which is characterized by pain in the chest, nausea and an ache in the abdomen, is more likely to occur right after a fatty meal, according to CNN.com.

Serious Warning Signs

Although the heart pain you experience after eating is most likely related to a digestive problem, it should not be taken lightly. Signs of a heart attack include sudden pressure or a squeezing pain in the center of the chest that persists for more than a few minutes, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, sweating, lightheadedness, dizziness and nausea. The chest pain associated with a heart attack may spread to your back, neck, shoulders, jaw, stomach and arms -- especially the left arm. If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

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