Experiencing pain around the heart after eating happens more frequently than you might. However, the cause is not always related to the heart.
Besides cardiac issues, heartburn is a very common trigger of chest pain near the heart.
Types of heart issues
Heart attack and angina are two common heart issues that might occur after eating.
Heart attacks occur when the flow of the oxygen-rich blood going to the heart is blocked. When the flow is blocked and unable to be restored as soon as possible, sections of the heart muscle begin to die.
Heart pain due to heart attack is mostly felt in the center area of the chest, spreading over both arms, especially on the left side and up to the lower jaw.
Check out heart.org for the most common heart attack symptoms.
Pectoris angina is a severe pain felt in the chest, caused by a lack of oxygen-rich blood supply that gives tissues the oxygen the body needs. It is usually brought on by not enough physical exercise and a poor diet.
Angina occurs when the coronary arteries, the same arteries that supply blood to the heart, are blocked by fatty deposits. When this happens, the artery walls precipitate, causing the flow of the blood to diminish.
Why does your heart hurt after eating?
Heartache is experienced on the left side of the chest. It might feel like tightness, pressure, a pinch, but also might be a sharp, stabbing pain.
Heart disease, heart attack, and angina are probably the most common causes.
Common trigger foods are fatty and sugary foods, especially when eating too much of them.
This is because too much hard-to-digest food can put a strain on the heart. In case there is already an issue with the heart, symptoms might occur.
Risk factors of heart pain after meals:
- being overweight
- high levels of bad cholesterol
- excessive intake of greasy or sugary foods
- heart disease
- stress, smoking
- and many others
In many cases, even though people feel discomfort in or around their heart, it is not the heart that causes symptoms, but acid reflux.
However, when experiencing a sharp left side chest pain after eating, you should talk to your doctor right away!
Pain near the heart after eating
If the pain is around the center of the chest, behind the breastbone, it might still be heart-related, but heartburn or other esophageal pain can also cause the symptoms.
- Very cold or hot beverages can often cause esophageal spasms, which feel like severe chest pain.
- Acid reflux has many trigger foods, even certain fruits and vegetables can trigger symptoms. You might also experience swallowing difficulties and a sour taste in the mouth.
Heart issues usually get somewhat better when you lie down, however, heartburn usually gets worse when lying down.
Sharp heart pain after eating
Sharp pain after eating should always be taken seriously.
Pain after heavy meals – especially when the pain is radiating into the left arm, shoulder, or neck, or having shortness of breath, dizziness – might be heart-related.
Even though sometimes heartburn can also cause very sharp chest pain when in doubt, you should always seek immediate medical help!
Lifestyle causes of heart pain after eating
As we age, we begin to notice the effects of eating the wrong kinds of food. Aside from a lack of exercise, excessive eating and eating the wrong types of food have a huge effect on our heart’s health.
This effect may serve as a long-time consequence that, if not corrected, can cause heart disease, heart pain.
What foods can cause heart pain?
But what do we mean exactly by “unhealthy” kinds of food?
Foods that contain a large amount of salt, sugar, saturated fats and few nutrients are considered unhealthy. This food is commonly called “junk food”. And because it is high in bad nutrients, it can cause high blood pressure and obesity which in the end may result in heart pain or disease.
Heart hurts after fast food
Fast food is usually very high in fat, salt, and sometimes sugar. All of these are risk factors for both heart issues and heartburn.
According to Harvard Health, hamburgers, french fries, high-sugar drinks all raise heart disease risk.
Sugar and heart pain
Too much sugar increases blood sugar levels, and as this study concludes: “excess blood sugar promotes clogging of arteries”.
Sugar not only increases the risk of developing diabetes, but because of the clogged artery walls, the risk of heart issues also increases.
Why does your heart feel heavy after eating?
It might sound surprising, but quite often what you feel like heart pain after eating has nothing to do with your heart.
Turns out that about 30%-40% of people ending up in the emergency room thinking they have a heart attack actually have acid reflux.
When you eat too much or too heavy foods, stomach acid might flow back into the food pipe, irritating the lining of the esophagus. This burning sensation is called heartburn (and has nothing to do with your heart).
Something heartburn can be so severe, that people think they have a heart attack.
While some acid reflux symptoms and heart attack symptoms overlap, there are a few differences between the two conditions. E.g. acid reflux usually gets worse when you lie down, heart attack does not.
However, sharp pain in the chest after eating is not a good sign. When you are not sure what causes the pain, you should always ask for immediate medical help!
What foods to eat to avoid heart pain?
Although people react differently to the same food, certain foods are less likely to trigger heart or chest pain.
As mentioned above, sugary, fried, or greasy foods are bad for your heart, stomach, and entire body. Overeating or eating too often such foods can lead to chest, heart, or stomach pains. So try to reduce these foods in your diet, and go for low-fat, low-sugar foods.
These foods are often recommended against heart pain:
- dark chocolates
These healthy foods will all help to protect you from experiencing heart pain and other heart diseases.
Eating has a significant effect on the health of your heart. Try to choose low-calorie, low-fat foods, without added sugars.
Sharp pain in the chest after eating is something that should be diagnosed as soon as possible.
Sometimes the chest pain is caused by acid reflux and is not related to the heart.
Frequently asked questions
It might, but if you have a healthy heart, it is not likely.
However, the best thing you can do is to eat reasonable size healthy meals, so that you won’t have to experience heart pain after eating.
This might or might not be a heart problem, you should talk to a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
However, the most likely cause in such cases is heartburn, i.e. stomach acids irritating the esophagus.
Muscle problems and other health conditions that are not related to the heart might also cause pain around the heart. There is a separate name for such conditions: non-cardiac chest pain.
This again might be a heart-related issue or a digestive problem.