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Panic Attacks -vs- Heart Attacks

July 2, 2007

I am a 45 year old who suffers from panic and anxiety attacks for the last several years. But these attacks have gotten worse and worse over the last several months due to my personal situation (unemployed, adopting a baby, lawsuit, selling my house). To say I am under pressure is an understatement.

I had not had a full blown panic attack since March but 3 weeks ago (June 10) I had the worse chest pain I had had in the last 20 years. The pain went from my outside left rid all the way into the middle of my chest. I couldn't breathe for a few seconds and the pain was VERY sharp. It stopped after several seconds but my heart was pounding.

Since that date the pains have been coming more and more frequently and closer together. Where as before they would happen every few months, now they seem to happen every day. This morning I had another bad one. While food shopping I got a sharp pain in my left chest that went again to the middle of my chest. Again, trouble breathing and the pain last for a few minutes. It is now 3 1/2 hours since that happened and there is still discomfort and pain in those same areas

Last week I went to St Francis Heart Hospital in Nassau County, NY (one of the best heart hospitals in the area). They gave me a battery of tests, echo, EKG, a stress test before and after my echo test, blood tests, chest x-rays, etc. ALL tests came back negative. They told me that the only other thing they could do is an angiogram to test for any blockage but this is risky. For the record, this is my second ECK in 2 weeks. I also had some test to determine blood flow in my caryatid arteries and heart - again, all negative.

As I said, I am 45 years old, my blood pressure is about 110/85, and my cholesterol level is 112. I do not have any history of heart trouble in my family (my dad left us when I was 1 year old so I have no idea about his history although I know he is still alive). I do not smoke cigarettes but do smoke one cigar per day when the weather is good. Never did drugs and drink about one glass of red wine per day.

My fear is that there is something very wrong with me and the doctors are missing it, even though I went to four hospitals and they all told me the same thing. I know panic attacks happen at anytime for no apparent reason. What concerns me is that they are now happening almost every day, the pain is getting worse and the pain seems to stay with me more than just a few minutes. It seems to last for hours at a time (like today).

Any advice, suggestions, contacts, etc. that you can provide would be VERY appreciative.

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Avatar universal
Slider have you ever heard of the old fight or flight syndrome?  It is one that psychologist often refer to.  It is believed that when man had to fight large animals in the wild in order to survive adrenaline would kick in in order to cope with either defeating the predator or being able to run like heck.  Well, we still have adrenalin and it can kick in at very odd times when we are under stress.  Sometimes we have delayed reactions at night when we are sleeping, when we are driving or just sitting quietly. This happens because we are not immediately expending and using it up, the adrenalin that is.  Often just a thought will somewhat activate this adrenalin and we aren't always even aware of it. As fast as our minds work when idling, we may have already forgotten the trigger by the time that it happens.  Voila the engine turns on. The adrenalin kicks in , the heart races and as it races the more chances of a pac or a pvc! The more things with which you are coping and the longer the duration of the stress the more adrenalin is being realeased.

We would understand this reaction if we had just been jogging, but it really scares us when it happens at times of rest!  With all that your mind is having to process and face right now it is no wonder at all that your heart races , that your chest hurts and etc.  Sounds like you have been checked out well and can rest assure that you will be just fine.  I hope that this help you to better understand why this may be happening to you.  It is natural.
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Avatar universal
You have a lot of big things going on. Some of these carry a lot of responsibility.  Perhaps more than you have ever had to face all at once.  In this case you are the Daddy and it seems all on your shoulders.  Our parents once carried these loads for us and now in your forties you realize there you are with it.  That is plenty of reason for a good responsible fellow to have some anxiety and panic for awhile  You will be just fine!  I'll bet that  you will make a fantastic Dad and it sounds like not only do you have a good heart , but a strong and giving heart.  God bless you.   You can do this and he and we will help you.

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Avatar universal
I have been having chest pains for close to 2 years now.  I was put through the whole battery of tests when it first started in Nov 05.  All clear.  I fought an anxiety/panic diagnosis for over a year and because of it, delayed treatment.  I didn't have a history or panic or anxiety and didn't feel any stress at all.  Especially when this all started.  Although I can say I do not (still) totally believe the anxiety diagnosis, I can say that on days that I have the same or similar pain that I had the first day, my aches, pains and discomfort in my chest area is unbelievable.  

I have been to four cardios and one of them was at the Mayo Clinic.  If they can't find it, I must be okay.  I think I underestimated the power of anxiety and would have benefitted greatly from checking out the anxiety right after the first cardio visit came back clean.

I know what it feels like to be so sure it is cardiac but then have normal results.  Maybe if you check out anxiety as a cause, it will all work out for you.

I wish you the best.
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116881 tn?1189755823

Try this .....
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Avatar universal
Hi and thanks for the encouraging words. Can you please check on that website? I checked and all I got were animal related websites
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116881 tn?1189755823
With all of those tests I really think SOMETHING would have shown up.  Even something slight. My mother in law just had a bypass and her only syptoms were feeling a little fatigued easily and ONE time having chest pains that made her feel like she couldn't breathe.  She went to the Dr the next day and they ran an EKG and immediately saw something that lead them to do more tests.  As it turned out she had one blocked artey which she had bypassed and is doing great now!  My point in telling you this is that if  they  could pick up a problem after one incident with her , they could surely pick up SOMETHING on you if there was anything wrong at all.   My guess is that it really is PA's. They can feel like just heart attack symptoms. I ahve had PA's where I was absolutely certain it was the big one!  I have had them where I feel like someone is standing on the center of my chest.  I think you may be better off to treat the anxiety and I bet your syptoms disappear.  In the meantime there is a website called TAPIR (google it) that is very supportive and informative.  I hope you feel better!    
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