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Old 12-11-2010, 07:06 PM   #1
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Heart or Anxiety?

Hello:

I am a 22-year old male. I was a competitive rower for 8 years, but since have gained nearly 30 lbs. and began smoking a half pack a day for about 9 months after school took over my life and I had to stop the sport.
3 months ago, I had a panic attack while driving. I had never experienced anything like it and thought it was a heart attack so I went to the hospital. EKGs and chest X-Rays while there came out normal, and the tightness had gone away. They determined it was a panic attack, and sent me on my way after a few hours' observation. That night I woke up several times with sharp chest pain. On the ER doctor's orders, I saw a cardiologist soon after. A cholesterol test showed my HDL was one point low and my LDL was one point high; nothing to worry too much about, but he did recommend 250mg of Niacin a day, which I am taking. I also took and echo-stress test and passed with "flying colors." I have also since not completely quit, but am down to 0-1 cigarette per day, usually going 3-4 days without smoking.
Since the first panic attack (I've had a few since), I haven't gone a day without experiencing some sort of chest pain. I will often get a sharp pain in the dead center of my chest, especially while lying down. It will many times even wake me up in the middle of the night. I also will get sharp "electric shock" type of pain in different parts of the front of my chest, and often a dull pain in the left-center of my chest. I also regularly get sharp and intense pain in my left bicep, and sharp pains in the side of my neck.
Recently (within the last week or so), I saw a gastroenterologist, who diagnosed me with acid reflux and prescribed Nexium, which I've been on for 3 days. I haven't gotten heartburn since (down from at least twice a day, all since the first panic attack).
To top things off, I also have developed a clear anxiety disorder, for which I've just recently begun to see a psychologist. I should note I am in a very intense program at school and have always been a pretty tightly wound person. Many times the anxiety will bring a tightness in my chest that won't go away, sometimes for hours. I get extremely worked up during my anxiety attacks, and I've been to the emergency room three times in the last three months because the symptoms are so severe.

Despite everything my doctors have told me, I still refuse to believe that there is nothing physically wrong with my cardiovascular system. The anxiety over this has since all but completely taken over my life. I'm often scared to workout, for fear of a heart attack, and I can't drive anywhere alone, or even be alone for more than a couple hours since I'm convinced that something terrible is going to happen. I'm forced to leave or early or cancel plans with friends altogether because the anxiety takes over.

My questions are:
What could be causing the above-mentioned chest pain?
Could the severe anxiety possibly be causing these type of physical symptoms?
And, of course, how can make all this stop? It is becoming a complete nightmare to live with the near-constant chest pains coming from nowhere, and the anxiety the comes from them. I honestly feel at some point every day like I am having a heart attack. I want this to stop, so at the very least I won't be so afraid to start getting myself back in shape.


Any help is greatly appreciated in advance.

 
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Old 12-11-2010, 08:11 PM   #2
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Re: Heart or Anxiety?

If you have 'sharp' pain then it is extremely unlikely to be cardiac related.

 
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Old 12-12-2010, 10:45 AM   #3
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Re: Heart or Anxiety?

To me it sounds like anxiety attacks bought on by stress. You sound very stressed out with your school etc.

When I had my chest pains that led to big angina attacks, the pain was a dull ache that started along the back of the shoulders and then started radiating down the left arm with pins and needles. Then a pain in the centre of the chest which gradually got worse before going away when I rested.

Hope you get it sorted.

 
Old 12-14-2010, 11:52 AM   #4
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Re: Heart or Anxiety?

I totally understand what you're going through dude...

I used to have major panic attacks all the time and the more you think about it the more severe it get's, am I right? Even reading up on panic attacks gave me panic attacks.

Ironic isn't it... lol

But the main thing to focus on here is that you have been for a stress test. You CAN rule out angina, heart disease, heart failure and any structural abnormality of the cardiac.

The ECG/EKG would have shown up any abnormality instantly.

And you need not fear a heart attack!!!!

A heart attack is caused by blockages in the capillaries which cut off oxygen to parts of the muscle. Your cholesterol is within acceptable levels and you haven't been smoking nearly as much as some of us, or as long, to get the fatty deposits building up.

I found that the best way to deal with panic attacks is to get a good understanding of them... What triggers you have etc.

For example,... do you get nervous before you get in your car for fear of another panic attack, and in so doing, increase your anxiety??

But, here are some immediate, practical coping strategies for dealing with the onset of a panic attack:

1) Understand you are having a panic attack and NOT a heart attack.
2) Understand it is the sudden dump of adrenaline in to your blood stream that is causing the symptoms you are experiencing (rapid heart rate, palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating etc)
3) If you feel the onset of a panic attack, quickly remove yourself from the situation and engage your brain in another activity (thinking of what I want to do to a hot chick works for me lol) - TRY NOT TO CONCENTRATE ON THE PANIC ATTACK.
4) To prevent hyperventilating it is important to control your breathing rate. I find that vapo rub does the trick, as the smell encourages you to take deeper, slower breaths.
5) Take sips of water. I get a dry mouth when having panic attacks and I find swallowing water rids me of that lump in my throat

AND THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE OF ALL

6) REMEMBER - IT WILL PASS!!!!!

There are medications that you can take that will lessen the severity of your anxiety drastically. These are called beta blockers which reduce/prevent adrenaline being released into your blood stream in the first place. Ask your doc about them.

It should be noted as well that acid reflux IS a symptom of stress/anxiety, and it could be this that woke you during the night (which is known to happen).

Hope at least some of this helps dude

Let me know how you get on!


George

 
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Old 12-19-2010, 05:58 AM   #5
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Re: Heart or Anxiety?

Good reading George. I have just been prescribed beta blockers for my heart palpatations and anxiety. My father died in June... in his sleep and the *palpatations/flutters* started shortly after that. My anxiety is more that I am going to die now. It sucks.... and the anxiety attacks have been awful. Even after a 10 year Marine Corps career I cannot believe how something which is pure mental can drag me down like anxiety attacks. I was told I had Mitra Valve Prolapse years ago and I've had heart flutters before but NEVER like what I've experienced the last 6 months. I've been in for an ecocardiogram, stress test, wore a holter monitor for a day and now I have a nuclear stress test on Jan 5th.

 
Old 12-19-2010, 07:10 AM   #6
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Cremer HB User
Re: Heart or Anxiety?

Quote:
A heart attack is caused by blockages in the capillaries which cut off oxygen to parts of the muscle. Your cholesterol is within acceptable levels and you haven't been smoking nearly as much as some of us, or as long, to get the fatty deposits building up
I have never smoked, hardly drink and eat pretty well, but my LAD was 100% blocked, the RCA was 80% blocked and the LCA 70% blocked so it can block up with anyone. And all this at the age of 43.

But I do agree with George it sounds more panic attack then heart attack.

Last edited by Cremer; 12-19-2010 at 07:11 AM.

 
Old 12-24-2010, 12:26 PM   #7
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YaksAreCool HB User
Re: Heart or Anxiety?

Thank you all for the help. It's been great, and very reassuring.

A quick update: I went and had my upper endoscopy, and the doctor took 8 biopsies. Turns out I have a pretty bad esophageal yeast infection (NO idea how that happened...). I've been taking Fluconazole for that for a few days now, and most of the pains have gone right away. I've also started on Lexapro.

But now I get sharp pains in my left side and back , as well as pain in between my shoulder blades. I also get dull pains just left and right underneath of my collarbone. Sometimes it is difficult to breath or I get very tired.

 
Old 12-26-2010, 01:21 PM   #8
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Preparatu HB User
Re: Heart or Anxiety?

Despite everything my doctors have told me, I still refuse to believe that there is nothing physically wrong with my cardiovascular system? O-O

 
Old 01-17-2011, 03:12 PM   #9
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thesandman1 HB User
Re: Heart or Anxiety?

Hey man,

I've gone through the same problems for a few years. I never worried a bit about my heart, but one night I went to sleep and had terrible palpitations. I jumped out of bed and had a terrible panic attack. I thought this was it, I thought I was going to die.

That was about two years ago. Since then, I've had 3 EKGs, 2 Chest X-rays, 2 Blood tests and an Echocardiogram. As you guess, everything was normal. There is no heart disease that runs through my family. None of my grand parents had it, nor my parents. I don't smoke, but I did chew for 5 years and would binge drink on weekends. Never did any hard street drugs.

I get the SAME exact chest pains you've mentioned. Quick, sharp, stabbing, jolting pains that last for about a second right where your heart would be. They then go away and come back a few hours later, regardless of working out, stress levels or even at rest. This would even happen while I would drink sometimes, so I always thought it was esophageal contractions, or something wrong with my musculoskeletal system.

I've lived in a near constant state of panic and anxiety for the past two years and have taken xanax or klonopin whenever an episode would occur. Not a day goes by without getting the quick/sharp pains, its very frustrating. I hope everything works out for you and please let us know if you feel better with what you did.

 
Old 01-19-2011, 06:58 PM   #10
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Re: Heart or Anxiety?

Wow, this story is so familiar to me. It almost reads like my life for the past ten years. I am 38 years old and suffer from panic and anxiety to the point that I can't drive or be left alone for more than a few hours myself. I work at home now, but when I did work outside of the home, my husband had to drive me there! It is debilitating and crippling to say the least, but at least I know I'm not the only one who is like this!

I have been having heart palpitations for a few months. I quit smoking January 7th (cold turkey, no meds or patches) and since then I have totally felt awful. I have more heart palps, feel light headed and feel a tightness in my chest that makes me think I'm headed for the pearly gates at any moment. It is totally controlling my life to the point that I don't know if I'll live through the night - and many times wake up with my pulse racing into the 110-120 range.

On a side note, I have severe hypothyroidism and will be having my thyroid removed (total) within the next month. I also have high BP that is controlled with metoprolol 50mg x twice daily. I take a water pill (Lasix 80 mg) and k-dur for swelling.

Just wanted to let you know that I have these same symptoms! Good luck!

Quote:
Originally Posted by YaksAreCool View Post
Hello:

I am a 22-year old male. I was a competitive rower for 8 years, but since have gained nearly 30 lbs. and began smoking a half pack a day for about 9 months after school took over my life and I had to stop the sport.
3 months ago, I had a panic attack while driving. I had never experienced anything like it and thought it was a heart attack so I went to the hospital. EKGs and chest X-Rays while there came out normal, and the tightness had gone away. They determined it was a panic attack, and sent me on my way after a few hours' observation. That night I woke up several times with sharp chest pain. On the ER doctor's orders, I saw a cardiologist soon after. A cholesterol test showed my HDL was one point low and my LDL was one point high; nothing to worry too much about, but he did recommend 250mg of Niacin a day, which I am taking. I also took and echo-stress test and passed with "flying colors." I have also since not completely quit, but am down to 0-1 cigarette per day, usually going 3-4 days without smoking.
Since the first panic attack (I've had a few since), I haven't gone a day without experiencing some sort of chest pain. I will often get a sharp pain in the dead center of my chest, especially while lying down. It will many times even wake me up in the middle of the night. I also will get sharp "electric shock" type of pain in different parts of the front of my chest, and often a dull pain in the left-center of my chest. I also regularly get sharp and intense pain in my left bicep, and sharp pains in the side of my neck.
Recently (within the last week or so), I saw a gastroenterologist, who diagnosed me with acid reflux and prescribed Nexium, which I've been on for 3 days. I haven't gotten heartburn since (down from at least twice a day, all since the first panic attack).
To top things off, I also have developed a clear anxiety disorder, for which I've just recently begun to see a psychologist. I should note I am in a very intense program at school and have always been a pretty tightly wound person. Many times the anxiety will bring a tightness in my chest that won't go away, sometimes for hours. I get extremely worked up during my anxiety attacks, and I've been to the emergency room three times in the last three months because the symptoms are so severe.

Despite everything my doctors have told me, I still refuse to believe that there is nothing physically wrong with my cardiovascular system. The anxiety over this has since all but completely taken over my life. I'm often scared to workout, for fear of a heart attack, and I can't drive anywhere alone, or even be alone for more than a couple hours since I'm convinced that something terrible is going to happen. I'm forced to leave or early or cancel plans with friends altogether because the anxiety takes over.

My questions are:
What could be causing the above-mentioned chest pain?
Could the severe anxiety possibly be causing these type of physical symptoms?
And, of course, how can make all this stop? It is becoming a complete nightmare to live with the near-constant chest pains coming from nowhere, and the anxiety the comes from them. I honestly feel at some point every day like I am having a heart attack. I want this to stop, so at the very least I won't be so afraid to start getting myself back in shape.


Any help is greatly appreciated in advance.

 
Old 01-20-2011, 05:05 PM   #11
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Ducati900sp HB User
Re: Heart or Anxiety?

Just wanted to let you know i go thru the same thing but i have heart disease so it makes my stress level go up 10 fold. I read this one report that a panic attack would be actually good for you if it wasnt for the stress level going up. They said its like running a mile or two on the tread mill. And also no one has ever died from a panic attack so it wont kill you. When i read that i knew i would be ok when i would have my next one. Sure enough two weeks later my heart started racing and my chest was in pain and all i could remember was to just calm down cause it wont kill you and that has helped me out ever since. Its been a year and a half and i havent had one. I feel what you felt, i was scared to be by myself and always slept for at a friends house and all that was doing was making it worse. The doctor said you are fine!! So please take a deep breath and smile cause you will be ok!!

 
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Old 01-20-2011, 05:59 PM   #12
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Re: Heart or Anxiety?

I just started taking Metoprolol(25mg) ad i was wondering how it was working for you??

 
Old 03-03-2011, 09:00 AM   #13
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Re: Heart or Anxiety?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ducati900sp View Post
I just started taking Metoprolol(25mg) ad i was wondering how it was working for you??
Wow this whole post is my life! Started getting extreme anxiety and palpitations after my mom died (11 years ago). docs said it was stress but i knew the heart palps were more. finally in 2008 i was diagnosed with svt and put on 25 mg metoprolol as needed. i usually have really bad 'episodes' 7-10 days before my period. (hormones?) i take 1 pill /day during that time to calm my heart and my nerves. i also noticed over the past year i have become more stressed when driving. i start having an episode if im sitting in traffic too long. i feel trapped and imagine that i might die if i have an 'attack' and can't pull over. thinking this always causes an attack. i fear i will pass out while driving! it's a terrible way to live. but i am soooo grateful to all of you sharing yours stories. can you imagine how people dealt with this before the internet? i know how alone and crazy i sometimes feel. but having others to listen and relate to helps!

 
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