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Avatar universal

Heart Problems or Anxiety attacks

This is my last question, as I now have met my 2 ?'s in the time frame.  Weds. evening I was having left arm discomfort and fingers fluctuated between aching feeling then numbess. Yesterday, it radiated to the sternum area (more burning sensation) and slight tightness in throat.  I went to the Dr. and she did an EKG and stated there was a 'worrisome change' from the last ekg she did on me (back in June).  In her office, I started to get lightheaded bad (not spinning), just felt very faint and my heart rate went up.  She sent me right over to the ER for test.  They did ekgs and all the bloodwork, cardiac, etc.  The only thing the Dr. said was something about a wave on the ekg that some people have it when they have a heartattack.  But the blood work was fine, then he came back in.  He said since I had a clear angiogram this past January, he felt this wave was just me and how I am.  Anyway....I had 3 bad spells in the ER last night - I got the lightheaded feeling like I was ready to pass out.....a weird, cool flushed feeling throughout my body and my heartrate jumped up the 170's.  Heartrate slowly came back down within a few minutes.  A little later, same thing again.  They did give me a GI cocktail, which didn't help the discomfort.  When I first got there, the chest was burning a bit. But after the fast heart rate episodes..my center of chest sternum area just ached.  I could've sworn with my symptoms from Weds. night...it all seemed similar to a heart problem like CAD.  But they said no way since I just had an angiogram in January. What could it be?  I'm scared! Thank You
23 Responses
74076 tn?1189759432
Hi Lynn,

Trust me when I say you are not alone with this problem and it is very scary.  It puts you in a difficult situation because you aren't sure what to do.  It is very difficult to tell you for sure what is going on.  you should feel comforted that you had a normal coronary angiogram last January.  Angiograms tell you that there is not obstructive coronary artery disease.  Angiograms do not lend insight into your endothelial cell function, the cellular lining on the inside of your coronary artery.  There is a subset of people with angina like pain that have normal stress tests and normal angiogram that have angina like pain.  Many of these people will have "endothelial dysfunction" -- meaning that there endothelials cells cause the vascular smooth muscle to constrict when it is supposed to relax.  This can cause chest pain and EKG changes despite other normal tests.  The diagnosis of this requires invasive testing and usually only at specialized centers.  In general, we usually do not do this testing unless the diagnosis is really unclear.  The treatment is nitrates and calcium channel blockers.   We usually treat empirically and watch for benefit rather than doing invasive testing.  The prognosis from chest pain from this cause is very good and should overly concern you.

We also know that people with anxiety can have angina like chest pain with other normal cardiac testing.  It is possible to have one or both of these problems going on.  The "vagal" or passing out symptoms you describe is often associated with anxiety.  The word anxiety is often taken to mean that you are "crazy" or that you don't handle stress well, but this is often not the case.  There is a wide variation to how we all respond to stress and our physiologic response is guided by our central nervous system, with only part of this being over our control.  If your symptoms are from panic attacks or anxiety, often counselling or biofeedback will help control these events. It comes with recognizing the problem and being able to talk yourself down when your nervous system starts to get fired up.  This can be diffucult and take time to learn, but I have seen it pay dividends if you are willing to try and this is the underlying cause.

I hope this helps answer your questions.  Good luck and thanks for posting.
Avatar universal
I made and error - My arm discomfort started on Weds. evening, by Thursday (Not Friday)....it radiated to the chest area.  I felt bad on Thursday and went to my Dr. yesterday.  I greatly appreciate your taking the time to answer my question.  I'm petrififed that something is wrong and it's not being caught.
Avatar universal
My apologies, I failed to add some general info.  I am a 36 old female, on the thin side. One important question I wanted to ask and I ran out of room.   I, for some reason, tend to get dehydrated easier than others (not the case in the ER per Dr).  I faithfully drink Powerade......constantly.  I have one with me at all times.  I do not drink anything else......no water, no pop, no mild.......just powerade.  Is this a bad thing to be doing.  Could this be having some impact on my issues?
74076 tn?1189759432
The fact that you are 36 years old makes coronary disease very unlikely.  Statistically, more people will present with anxeity related chest pain then endothelial dysfunction.  From our understanding now, people with endothelial function tend to be overweight, hypertensive, and diabetic or glucose intolerant.  There may also be an increased risk for people with polycystic ovary disease or syndrome.
Avatar universal
Thanks so much for your detailed and informative feedback.  It is greatly appreciated!
Avatar universal
Hi Stop Drinking the Powerade and see what happens, I went to the er a while back with a pulse of 174 and bp of 160 over 109 and had all kinds drinks that day with all kinds of sugar.
Do yourself a favor just drink water and Oj for a while.
Some people if they are just a bit dehydrated they can get angina.

Water water water. Not Powerade.

Also check out www.watercure.com

Stuart Brandt
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