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Avatar universal

family history of heart attack(is it anxiety?)

My dad died two and a half years ago(age55), and the doctors said it was a massive heart attack.  I guess it had to have been, because not only two minutes prior I had hung up the phone with him and rushed home to find him on the ground, and dead. He had gotten really worked up ten minutes before which wasn't unusal for him, so I wanted to get away from him. Before I left he told me something wasn't right. I told him to sit down, relax, and breathe. For months he had complained of pain in his chest. I frequently took him to either the hospital or to his doctor. One time the doctors asked him to stay overnight to run test, after test, after test. Well after the umpteenth test he sweettalked a nurse into letting him go if the next test came back ok. Throughout all of these tests, nothing could be found wrong. They said it was acid reflux. IMPORTANT FACT: My grandpa(his dad) died in his fifties and had the same temperment. My dad was also misdiagnosed with M.S. After ten years of no symptoms of M.S. they deduced that the lack of feeling in his right hand was caused by a massive stroke. I think about that day and the prior year alot. I have his temperant as well, although I am a female. I have been suffering from what I believe is Anxiety. I am only 23 years old but in the past year I have gone to the urgent care twice because I was experiencing chest pains for a day or more. I, like him, have outrageous mood swings, extreme irritability, and social anxiety that can be disguised. Is it possible that mental health could be the cause of heart failure?Please help me understand.
14 Responses
74076 tn?1189759432

I am sorry for your loss and understand how experiences like that can replay in your mind.  Unfortunately you will probably never know exactly what happened.  Stress testing is very good at diagnosing coronary artery disease and stable angina.  It is not as great at predicting heart attacks in young people.  Heart attacks in young people can be from rupture plaques with little or know evidence of underlying coronary artery disease.

It is more difficult to treat coronary artery disease in people with anxiety because the symptoms can be exactly the same.  If  you have  a strong family history of coronary artery disease, it is important that you control your risk factors as much as possible -- no smoking, treat diabetes and hypertension, control you weight and physical conditioning and make sure your cholesterol is within or better than guidelines.

It situations like yours I also think that counseling is well worth it to help teach you to recognize and control your anxiety.

I hope this answers  your questions.  Good luck and thanks for posting.
Avatar universal
My heart goes out to you for the loss of your Dad. You did all in your power to care for him by taking him to the doctor and the hospital...he chose to make his own decision regarding further workup. I am commenting to you because all this sounds too familiar.
My father had 4 vessel coronary artery bypass surg. at age 58. His father died of a massive heart attack at age 52. I have the same type A personality as my father and anxiety in new social situations, all of which is stress on the body, resulting in high blood presure, digestive problems etc. Genetic predisposition to elevated cholesterol and poor diet does not help either.
I suffered daily from an irregular heartbeat that started six years ago apparently from Mitral Valve prolapse that was causing a significant blood backup. The anxiety and fear of sudden death was overwhelming at times and I became afraid to do things I always enjoyed.....however, after testing and finding one of the most understanding cardiologist who truly put my mind at ease I no longer suffer from the continued daily irreg. heartbeats...but accept them. I hope you will be able to get testing and reassurance that will decrease your anxiety and fears...I realize it is easier said than done...but this forum is an excellent start with many well wishers who have been there, done that! Good Luck.
Avatar universal
I am so sorry about your father's death, and for the pain you and he must have experienced all these years.

As people here say, when you have anxiety--perfectly understandable, by the way--finding a way to deal with it is terribly important, regardless of whether or not there are also cardiac symptoms.  

Your mention of extreme mood swings and irritibility makes me wonder, apropos of my own family's experiences, if perhaps bipolar disorder is involved.  I hope you will be seeing a counselor about both your anxiety and these other difficulties.
84483 tn?1289941537
Just wanted to say I'm very sorry for the loss of your Dad, you have my deepest sympathy, at 55 your Dad was still quite young and had alot of years ahead of him. I am also of the personality you speak , I have PVCs, tachy , chest pain and such, though no family history of heart disease, this has been happening to me since my teens and 20s and I'll turn 42 next month.

With a strong family it is always better to be thoroughly checked out, genetics play a huge role in the development of CAD, though you probably have nothing to worry about now. At least you aware that you have genetic predisposition to developing CAD and maybe this is causing you a great anxiety at present, at least you are one step ahead and can take preventative actions. My opinion is that your symptoms are more anxiety related because of your awareness of this. The CCF doc gave some good advice regarding this. My best wishes goes out to you , relax , seek couseling or guidance, also reassurance is key. Be well and take care.
61536 tn?1340701763
Your post sure hit home.  I am so sorry about your dad.  I have an extremely similar family history, and my grandfather, father and myself all have the same temperament you describe.

My grandfather suffered a massive fatal MI at age 55.  They had suggested a cardiac catherization to him, but when told of the risks he declined.  He was subsequently released, called my grandmother to come get him, and was dead before she arrived ten minutes later.

My father, at 47, underwent a triple bypass and nearly died on the table because they perforated an artery while inserting it (years of Prednisone for Chrons Disease, not necessarily a medical mistake).  Earlier that day he'd been mowing the lawn and "just didn't feel right".  By the time he got into the house he felt like someone stuck a metal spike through him and then parked a truck on his chest.  Fortunately he survived, 10 years now.  He's had three more stents, new sites, since.  For several years prior to his bypass, he had gone to the ER multiple times with chest pain.  He was told he had reflux.  Only when they did a catherization after a slightly abnormal EKG did they discover three near-complete blockages.

As someone else mentioned, I think all of the testing can fall short in the young.  The best you and I can do is use the knowledge we have to keep our coronary arteries healthy (avoid trans fats, saturated fats and unhealthy habits such as smoking) and do everything we can to appropriately manage stress.  Keep tabs on your cholesterol, make efforts to raise or keep HDL levels up, and get plenty of exercise.  Nothing is a guarantee, but we also don't have to become a family history statistic either.

Take care of yourself.
97628 tn?1204465633
I also lost my father to a massive heart attack. He was only 43 and I was a preschooler. It was my birthday , we'd had a party and I don't know if that added to his stress level or not but, shortly after I was put to bed, he collapsed in the livingroom. My mother tried to give him his med (nitro?) but didn't succeed. She didn't know CPR.

My father also had a volatile temperament and I have it as well, though, being socialized female I suppress it more. Most people would describe me as even keeled. I am not. It's not anxiety for me it's temper. I can feel it rising, face flushing and stop it there. If you have a strong family history, it is always wise to get all appropriate testing and, if you have high blood pressure or other risk factors, medication and lifestyle modifications are important.
Exercise and meditation are good for anxiety.

It could be that lots of people are anxious and some just happen to have heart disease as well. Still,there are some differences in people that may make them more susceptible to certain aggravating factors.

Were I young, and currently healthy, I would do my best to address the anxiety issue and live as happily as I can, to embrace my good health and address issues as they come along, not try to anticipate them. I'm sorry, I know it's easy to say that and a lot harder to do it.
I wish you all the best.

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