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Teenage Heart Attack
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Teenage Heart Attack

Hello. Just a couple days ago I posted a question to Jeffrey R Boris, M.D. and I very much appreciated the long, detailed, response I received. And in the response, the issue heart attack was addressed but I would like for it to be addressed a little further; just for my reassurance and to know as much as I can on the matter. Well, I've been having terrible anxiety lately with horrible symptoms. I get dizzy, out of breath, chest/rib pain for very long periods of time, sore muscles, back pain, left and right shoulder pain, jaw/toothache, inner and outer body tingles, chest tickles that cause a cough, extreme fatigue and weakness, upper abdominal pain below the left breast, and extremely fast, terribly freighting heart palpitations. Most symptoms come and go, but the strong heart palpitations and body/chest pains are usually there all day long. But I am only a 17 year old female. Now I don't eat very well but I am fit, not overweight in the least bit. Since my first panic attack on June 19, 2009, I do not drink any caffeine (however, I drank massive amounts prior to that day). I also exercise not too often, but often enough. I don't drink or do any drugs. I also have normal blood pressure and usually a heart rate of 100 beats/minute. My uncle who is 53 just had a heart attack recently, but other then that I do not have a history of heart problems in my family. Do I sound like a candidate for heart attack? Can teenagers with my history even get heart attack? And if they can, what type of history do teenage heart attack victims usually have in order to get one? Do my symptoms just sound like typical anxiety symptoms? And could I possibly be a rare case where even though my history is all good I have a serious heart problem? Or is that just pretty darn unusual? I am currently seeing a primary Dr. and had an EKG and chest x-ray that came back normal. I had blood work done but have not gotten the results yet. Sorry for the huge onslaught of questions, but I need to know if teenage heart attack is possible in someone like me. Sometimes, one Dr. just isn't enough. Unless I want to sleep on her doorstep every night. Thanks!
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OMG what a pile of questions for someone your age!! The chances of you having a heart attack at your age are basically NIL! Let me explain why. The hormones in a women's body prevent her from having a heart attack until after menopause. The reason for that is because of her ability to carry and bear children. The demands on a women's heart are incredible. In was God's way of protecting women during the childbearing years. That's the first thing. The second is that it takes at least 20+ years of eating junk foods etc for there to be enough plague built up in the arteries to cause a problem with chest pains and a heart attack; you are only 17 so that negates you. Overall kids and teens never have heart attacks. There is only one exception that I know of where a young person can have a TRUE heart attack; my own daughter had her first heart attack at the age of 12. The first thing you need to understand is that a heart attack is caused ONLY by a lack of blood flow through the Coronary Arteries which are located on the outside of the heart muscle. From that point the arteries break down into the veins and then down tho the capillaries; the veins and capillaries going down through the heart muscle to supply the muscle with blood and oxygen. My daughter suffered from something called Concentric Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy which translated means: Involving all the walls of the ventricles (Concentric) Thickened (Hypertrophic) Heart (Cardio) Myopathy (Diseased Muscle) Her walls continued to grown and became so thick that the blood supply to the heart was outgrown so she continued to have heart attacks all the time until she was transplanted. You do not have this kind of problem; if you did, believe me, you would have known!  If you have a severe enough form of heart disease to cause the problems that you are discribing, it would have shown up on the EKG for sure. My own daughter's EKG Complexes were so tall they literally shot off the page and they have to adjust her EKG to a quarter of the nomal standart to get a complex that was actually readable. Young people: teens and children feel palpitations and think it is chest pain so they describe it as chest pain; it really isn't true, heart related, chest pain. It's that hard thumping they feel due to a palpitation of the heart. You are not a candidate for a heart attack. Chances are that your anxiety is getting the better of you. You really need to stop worrying about your health and enjoy just being a teen. There are 5% of teens out there waiting for transplants that are being robbed of the fun that you have in your life. Don't throw that away for yourself. In a very short time you will be a full adult and the 'fun years' of youth will be forever gone. Enjoy them while you have them.
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Thank you so, so much for replying to this. Your words of advice and wisdom made me feel so much better. I don't understand anything about the heart, therefore I jump to conclusions cause I don't have any idea whats logical or not. But your explanation made me understand things a little bit more. I know I'm young, but its hard to relax when everything feels so terrifying and serious. I always think "what if" and that something definitely has to be wrong other than just anxiety. Your response made me feel loads better, and it gave me some reassurance that I very much needed. I'm sorry about everything that has happened with your daughter, I truly do hope she is doing well. Thanks again for giving me some hope that everything will be okay, and that I'm only a teenager with life to live. Best of wishes, and God bless.
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi Chrissy, as someone that has suffered from an anxiety disorder for over 10 years I would like to provide you with some of the knowledge I have gained.  Some people will tell you to just not worry, and if you can do that, then that is great; but as you have probably realized, this is not just a switch we can turn on or off.  I bring this up for two reasons.  First, to provide you with a ready answer when people tell you to just not worry.  Secondly, to educate anyone who happens to read this and has not experienced an anxiety disorder first-hand.  Telling someone with an anxiety disorder that they should just not worry and be happy is tantamount to telling someone who lost a race that they should have ran faster:  both know the cause but remedying it takes training and usually the help of someone who understands how to make the improvements.  I hope the following will point you in the right direction.

First of all, I would suggest that you see a psychiatrist to evaluate you for an anxiety disorder (while also being checked to rule out serious physical conditions.)  If anxiety is determined to be part of the problem, you will likely be prescribed medications to help control it.  You may also wish to try cognitive behavior therapy which teaches you how to control your thought process so that symptoms do not escalate.  Anxiety can mimic a host of symptoms of more serious conditions.  Even so, be sure to tell your doctor about all of your symptoms.  Write them down so you will remember and write them down when they are occurring so that you can describe them more effectively.  If the cause is anxiety, writing them down can also be therapeutic because it forces you to evaluate exactly what you are feeling and where.  Be sure to note the time and date that it occurred and how long the symptoms last.  Keeping a diary also has the benefit of your being able to review past events.  This is useful when you are having a panic attack or are maybe about to have one because you see if you have had the same symptoms before and how long they lasted.  Knowing that you felt this way before and came through it ok can be a source of comfort and can shorten or even circumvent a panic attack.

Now I would like to address some of your heart concerns.  I have also had a great deal of anxiety that focused on my heart.  You may experience the sensation of a skipped or extra beat.  Most people get these from time to time and they are generally considered harmless.  If you google "skipped heart beat" you will find tons of information on this and you will also find that it frightens most people the first time they experience it (and most people never feel it when it happens.)  For the fast heart rate, you may wish to google "inappropriate sinus tachycardia".  Inappropriate sinus tachycardia is when the heart has a normal sinus rhythm (in other words, it has a normal beat rhythm) but is faster than 100 beats per minute despite the fact that the person has not engaged in physical activity to merit having that high of a pulse rate.  The good news is that this is not life-threatening.  The bad news is that it is very uncomfortable and can cause you to feel fatigued.  That said, you should also be aware that fast heart rates can also be a sign of dangerous arhythmias.  Definitely have it checked out by a cardiologist just to be safe!  If it is not frequent, then it is probably not going to be caught on an EKG at your doctor's office, so you may have to wear a holter monitor (a type of EKG recorder that you wear) for several days.  

One more thing to consider.  Acid reflux (also known as GERDs) can sometimes be mistaken for heart pain.  If you have recently felt a burning sensation deep in your chest or if you have difficulty swallowing, it would be a good idea to have this checked.  

You may also wish to try what is called the "vagal maneuver" the next time your heart is racing for unexplained reasons.  To do this, you tighten your abdomen and "bear down" like you are having a bowel movement.  The heart is wired to slow down when you do this and it may reset the rhythm to a slower rate.
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