Which is it?
Heart attack vs. heartburn: If you typically have heartburn, and you've just eaten a large or spicy meal, you may want to take an antacid to see whether the pain goes away, advises Ouyang. "If you've never had anything like this before, and particularly if it's quite severe or you have a sweat with it ... then it might be a heart attack."
- Heart attack vs. panic attack: If you have a history of panic attacks — racing heart or feelings of impending doom — the symptoms may be another panic attack. But if you've never had a panic attack, Hayes says you should be checked out because you don't want to wind up ignoring a real heart attack.
- Heart attack vs. stable angina: Angina — the pain that comes from insufficient blood flow to the heart — feels similar to a heart attack, but tends to come and go as you exert yourself. "If there is some kind of activity that brings on these symptoms and then you rest and it goes away, that is a classic symptom of angina," Ouyang says. Sweating and shortness of breath are more likely to accompany a heart attack. Angina is often a precursor to a heart attack, so people need to see a doctor and get diagnosed quickly.