I promise I will try and make this short. 9 years ago when I turned 50, my doctor decided that a really thouough physical was called for. I did a stress test and they apparently saw something they didn't like. Fast forward to me having a heart cath. Small amounts of placquing were found in several arteries. (20-30%) They added Atenolol and a baby aspirin and told me I had to quit smoking. At which I failed. I was also apparently told I had angina, but in my state of fear, I totally missed that dx. Don't ask me how........it just seems that no matter how spooked I was, I would remember being told I had angina.
Fast forward nine years. A few times over the past year.........maybe longer, maybe shorter, I just can NOT remember when it began or how many times it's happened, but I'd get this very small, annoying dull pain in my chest which I usually put down to my GERD. Then I began to feel a pain in my lower right jaw sometimes when I had this pain in my chest. I researched GERD and found that it CAN radiate pain to your jaw. I felt somewhat relieved. But I also know that those can be symptoms of an MI in women. I began to get scared. I had absolutely no other symptoms when this happened. Getting up and walking around and an antacid helped and the "episode" would go away completely in about 10 minutes or less. Last Friday I was scheduled to have a yearly physical with my doctor, but instead talked to her about these pains. She did an EKG and while she said it looked fine, she said it was "abnormal" as she saw two small "dips." I believe that was the term she used. At this point all I could hear was a roaring in my ears. I know I asked her if that meant I had had an MI (or two) and I know she didn't actually say yes, she was sort of vague. I don't know if she just didn't want to scare me more than I was or if she just wasn't sure as she isn't a cardio. We discussed angina..........could an episode of angina cause those "dips?" She is sending me to see a cardio. She wrote me a script for nitro, which has me terrified. I'll quickly add the past year has been THE most stressful of my entire life. Husband has been out of work for a year this month and we are on the verge of losing our home. Can barely pay our bills......I'm sure you all know THAT story. I am so afraid that I've had two heart attacks and stupidly put them down to GERD! I just keep telling myself that if she thought I was in danger of having an MI, she would never have let me leave. Am I correct in that thinking? Do these "dips" or whatever she saw absolutely mean only ONE thing......heart attack? Or could some other "event" have caused these..........like the fact I was having a near panic attack at the time of the test? I know the cardiologist will run numerous tests and possibly another cath. Can anyone help me calm down? I'm afraid to exert myself at all for fear of having a heart attack. I am looking, and hoping, for some small amount of reassurance. I am NOT looking for sympathy as I know my smoking is no doubt to blame and people probably feel I deserve whatever I'm in for.
Am I a "dead woman walking?" Is there anything they will be able to do for me?
I'm 59, 5'7" 162 pounds, work as a CNA in a major hospital and Lordy am I scared!!!!!!!!
Thanks for listening.
The strip of an EKG is the ST segment and that relates to the heart muscle and/or coronary ateries. Elevated or lowered ST segments may mean the heart muscle is damaged or not receiving enough blood.
Some drugs can give a false positive e.g., digoxin, quinidine, etc. There can be electrolyte abnormalities. Or it can be ischemia (lack of blood flow to the heart cells due to blocked arteries. Infarction (damaged heart cells from heart attack), inflammation, etc. An EKG is never conclusive it has to be supported by other clinic evidence, symptoms, etc. Are you on other medications other than nitro? Did the nitro relieve any chest pain? Do you still smoke?
Other events and stress can cause a problem associated with your abnormal EKG. You need further testing unless your doctor believes the EKG is false positive with identified factors. You may have minor blockage of a vessel that the doctor wants to look at with further tests.
Thanks so much for your prompt reply.
That you didn't just say "yes, you've had a heart attack" was very reassuring, but I DO realize you also didn't say I haven't. Just knowing there may be other possible causes has helped calm me down a little. Those "other" causes may be even scarier!
I have never been on nitro. Yesterday was the first time it's ever been perscribed for me. I have it sitting here, but haven't had to use it.
My list of meds may shock you.........hell, they shock ME! Here goes.......
Xanax 2mg qd (PTSD & sever panic disorder)
Nadolol 80mg (It WAS 40 mg but my neuro upped it saying it had an affinity for migraines)
Amlodipine 5mg qd
Lipitor 40mg qd (I have HYPER-cholestremia)
Aspirin 81mg qd
Maxalt MLT PRN/migraines
Prilosec (explained below, but will now become yet another daily med)
I WAS on Enbrel but stopped about a year ago. It worked like a miracle, I just don't trust the biologics. Also since my husband will lose his Union insurance next month, there is NO WAY we could afford the $3200.00 a month it costs!
Yesterday 5/7, I was given prescriptions for;
Nitro 0.4 mg
Prilosec 20mg 2qd for 2 weeks, then 1 qd
Zoloft 50mg qd (Not taking until I discuss with my PMM)
And unfortunately, I do still smoke. With the incredible stress in my life, I have smoked more than usual in the past few months. While most people would have flushed them from a scare like mine, this added stress keeps me lighting up. Once I have seen the cardio and know what I'm facing..........the cigarettes WILL be gone. It's just too much right now, which NOBODY needs to tell me is unbelievably stupid, nor that I have no one but myself to blame for where I am.
As I was sitting here this morning with my normal horrid habit of not eating, drinking 5 cups of coffee and smoking endless cigarettes, I got that exact chest pain I talked about, but no jaw pain. I had taken a Prilosec earlier and this "attack" lasted only a few minutes, if that.
I like and trust my doctor, but want a cardiologist to tell me what's going on. Your post has helped, but I'm still very frightened. If my pipes ARE clogged, then can "unclog" them, right?
One thing I didn't mention was that the EKG machine at my doctors office looked like the origianl prototype and it took the RN many tries to get it to even begin recording.........I'd like to blame all this on out of date equipment, but realize that's probably hoping for too much. I KNOW I must see a cardio.
Again, thank you for such a quick reply. I truly appreciated it.
If the added information I've given you changes your thinking, please let me know.
Warmly, but fearfully,
I think you have had a great big wakeup call to quit smoking. You very well will remember this event as the catalyst that changed your life. I smoked pimp sticks like you, and found it very easy to quit after a heart attack and was in a very cold room getting heart stents, and the doctor commented that I was a classic case of a smoker with CAD. That was eleven years ago, I exercise daily, am doing well, but I absolutely guarantee you that you will have more heart trouble if you don't commit to giving up the pimp sticks.
I call cigarettes pimp sticks in memory of my grandfather who felt real men smoked cigars. He wasn't upset that I was smoking as a teenager, just that I was smoking the wrong product. It helped me quit smoking to think of cigarettes as pimp sticks.
I work as a peer navigator at our local hospital, doing what I can to give comfort to patients and their loved ones as I have so many heart procedures. I was the poster boy for bad cardiac habits, I'm still standing, so I'm used as an example of a bad boy reformed. The surgeons here all refuse to do heart surgery if the patient won't agree to quit smoking. Certainly not all quit but they agree to quit if they are conscious when they arrive. The family otherwise has to agree to try and stop the patient from smoking after the bypass or other open heart procedure.
It's time to quit rationalizing, Millions of us have quit smoking. In my opinion, you have been given the gift of a warning that could extend your life.
I know smoking is bad for you, but personally my view on this is the stress being the cause. Like you I smoked and I was really fit, nothing was too much effort even running cross country. As soon as I had lots of stress in my life, WALLOP, it all started. I know life can be a real "bit**" at times, but you really need to try and get the stress under control. Every time you get worried over something you have to stop and ask yourself "is this worth me dying for". I am surprised at how little testing you have had over so many years. To be honest, you may as well throw the EKG readout in the bin because it needs backing up with other tests. I'm shocked you haven't had an echo or nuclear scan yet. They are basically throwing all this medication at you but they don't 'really' have the facts. In the UK, if a Doctor suspects ANY heart problems, the patient is immediately referred to a cardiologist because this is where almost all the midiagnosis's are made.
Thanks so much for your response. As I'm sure all of you can appreciate, I am totally freaked out and my "stress-o-meter," which was ALREADY pegged, has now totally disappeared beyond the red line.
Learning to deal with stress has been one of those things I've been telling myself for bloody YEARS I need to do. I have been a stress monster my whole life, have always been described as "nervous." It's who I am, but that doesn't mean you can't change how things affect you. I've just never taken the time to actually do anything about it and now I fear it's too late.
You read my tale of woe. How do I NOT stress about losing our home of 30 years? How do I stop my heart from jumping out of my chest every time the phone rings because I know it's going to be someone wanting to know when I'm going to pay them? How do I not stress when I know that in just a few weeks, we are going to lose the excellent insurance we had for 30+ years and we will NOT be able to afford ANY?
I know that my response should just be that "whatever is going to happen is going to happen whether or not I stress about it and that somehow it's all going to work out." That to me sounds like the intelligent and rational attitude, but being me, I am incapable of just letting the worry go.
My doctor is setting up an appt. with a cardio, but she said I had to have some bloodwork done first or he'd been pissed, so this morning I will go in before work and get that done. Hopefully, the cardio appt. will be very soon. I can't just sit here much longer not knowing.........I feel on the verge of death with every breath I take. I know that sounds seriously over-dramatic, but it IS how I'm feeling.
I wish now that my doctor HAD sent me immediately for a cardio consult. Sure would have been better than sitting here for days on end wondering if every little pain was a heart attack. As I said before, I can only take some small comfort in the fact she obviously didn't seem that alarmed at what she saw or she would have sent me immediately. We live in a very "sue happy" county and she knows that if something were to happen to me, it would be her arse on the line for not taking immediate action. I am hanging onto that slim belief with everything I've got!
I too think it's the stress, but stress can cause heart attacks, and the smoking sure doesn't help.
When you said you were fine until the stress hit you with a "wallop," what sort of symptoms did YOU have and what did they find out? Did your EKG have "dips" in it as well?
Again, thank you for responding. I know you understand how scared I am and I really appreciate your words.
Hi, I had a very stressful job and then my wife was diagnosed with cancer. While having treatment, her sister was in the same ward, having same treatment for the same cancer, but she died after just two weeks. Having 3 kids to look after was also an added stress.
My symptoms first were a nasty throat discomfort and chest pains on exertion. Even walking out to the car, particularly in cold weather, brought it on. Then about a month later I had terrible chest pains and went to the hospital. ECG was normal, bloods normal, everything looked great and they gave me something for my stomach, believing it was that. Exactly one year later I had three episodes of MI over three days and believed they were my stomach again. The third one was particularly bad and enough to get me to go into the hospital for tests. They discovered the MI through blood tests. ECG was still normal.
I really sympathise for you because I know what stress is like. Not being able to work due to my wifes illness, I had the dreaded phone calls/debt collectors on the door. So, what did I do? After they stented my initial problem I attended Councelling for stress control. This went on for three months, once a week but did wonders. My angiograms up until completing the course showed increase of disease, but all the angiograms post the course, show no change. I was basically taught to see life in a different way. If you would like me to give a few details of what I was taught, I will gladly post you a message. Like I said, I've been there and know how hard it is. The harder you fight back, the deeper the hole gets.
I cannot, nor will I, choose a "Best Answer," and I hope that doesn't offend anyone. You were ALL here for me when I needed help and I am grateful for ALL the advice I received. There is no BEST. There is only caring and comapssion. You're ALL the BEST in that category.
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