Heart beat: Gallstones and heart disease

Heart beat

Gallstones and heart disease

A gallstone attack, with its knife-like pain suddenly piercing the upper abdomen and lower chest and gradually growing more intense, is one of many things that mimics a heart attack. It turns out there's another connection between the two: People with heart disease are three times more likely to have gallstones than those free of heart disease.

Your gallbladder makes and stores the fat-digesting substance known as bile. Bile sometimes crystallizes inside the gallbladder. The hard lumps that form, called gallstones, are usually made of cholesterol. Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a ping-pong ball.

Most people with gallstones don't realize they have them. They cause symptoms only when they block a duct carrying bile from the liver or gallbladder to the small intestine, or one carrying digestive enzymes from the pancreas.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »