RRaider95

Heart Fears

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Hey all,

It's been a long time since I've been on here, but some of you may know me from other boards.  I've been battling health anxiety since I was 10.  I'm now 48.  In those 38 years, I've been convinced I've had just about every type of malady known to man.  Seriously.  Even like HIV and hantavirus.  It's a very scary existence, but I've been getting help from a psychiatrist and a psychologist.

Last year at this time, I helped my son move some furniture out of his dorm.  Always aware of my heart, I noticed afterwards that I was a bit short of breath, and it frightened me.  I went to my general practitioner, and he said that he was sure that it was all anxiety and that I was in good health, but he would run some tests to calm my fears.  The EKG, chest X-Ray, and bloodwork all came back normal.  He also had me go get a coronary calcium scan, which measures the amount of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries.  For someone my age, it should be zero.  The test showed a score of 75, which put me at an elevated risk of a cardiovascular event, and is higher than 75% of people my age.  It scared me to death, and put me into an anxiety spiral that lasted for months.

My GP said I would be okay, and that it just showed we needed to take more protective measures.  We switched my statin to one that ultimately lowered my LDL to 58!  I take a baby aspirin each day.  I eat no red meat.  I exercise on the ellipical for 30 minutes 5 times per week.  I am not overweight.  My blood pressure is only high at the doctor's office.  I don't smoke.  I started feeling pretty good about my situation.

Then December came.  What's the worst thing that could happen for someone like me?  My *younger* brother (44) had been having chest pain.  He had a stress test, followed by an angiogram.  He had one artery 90% blocked, and one 100% blocked.  He had open heart bypass surgery last month.  It set me back a bit.  Now, he was an alcoholic, overweight, tobacco user, poor diet, high blood pressure, but the genetics still scare me.  However, my 70 year old parents are in almost perfect health.

After my brother went home and started to heal up, I decided to tell my GP to see how it would impact me.  He said that it's time to go to a cardiologist and get a stress test.  That has sent me into a tailspin.  The appointment was set up for several weeks later, which just made things worse.  Time to ponder the worst just isn't good.

Well, that cardiology appointment is finally coming around on Monday.  As the day gets closer, I'm getting more and more scared.  I won't make plans for the future.  I have trouble sleeping.  My appetite is waning.  

I'm scared to death that the cardiologist is going to tell me I have a blockage and need some sort of procedure.  I'm scared she's going to see my white coat syndrome high blood pressure and high heart rate and think something is seriously wrong with me.  

Can someone please tell me that I'm overreacting?  Has anyone gone through a similar experience?  What to expect?  Should I tell the cardiologist about my health anxiety?  

Thank you so much for any support.

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Tell the doctor that you are a little stressed about the testing I'm sure that she'll try to reassure you and make you feel better.  She will probably try to get you distracted by talking about something else.  I don't have heart issues but last week I had to go in for testing for my thyroid and gallbladder and I was all over the place mentally and I kept trying to talk myself out of going for the testing.  I went in and everything is fine but I wouldn't know that if I had not gone in to get tested in the first place.  Tell the doctor I'm sure they deal with nervous patients all the time.  

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I'm considering taking xanax before I go in, but I don't want to throw off any of the tests.  Then again, I don't want her to think that my heart rate is 125 all the time.

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As I get closer to the appointment, I have trouble getting a breath sometimes.  I think it's anxiety, but it's hard to tell.  I hate this fear.

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I can certainly identify with your post, RR.
My mother died of sudden cardiac death at age 59 while napping. I was age 30 at the time and was the one who tried to wake her up from her “nap”. It had a profound impact on me. I began to feel every flutter in my chest or missed heartbeat. I self-diagnosed every gas pain as a cardiac event. I went to at least 2 cardiologists and was told everything was fine so it went from a raging fire in my psyche to a slow simmer on the back burner. 
Fast forward 20 years and at age 50 I mentioned this cardio phobia to my primary care doctor. I think just to get rid of me he scheduled a thallium stress test. The fact that he would even consider such a test sent me into a tailspin and I was a nervous wreck. The day of the test I was in complete panic mode. As I sat in my gown in the waiting area I noticed I was the healthiest looking person there. Most were much older. Some looked near death. Some were so weak they could not stand on the treadmill and they took the test on an exercise bike. For some the test duration was cut short. What was I doing there?  I was a healthy 50 year old with anxiety.

Once on the treadmill the cardiologist noted my BP and pulse were elevated but made no further mention of it.  I breezed through the first 5 minutes and was asked if I had any pain.  When I said no he increased the speed.  A few minutes later the doctor asked me why I was there.  I said for a baseline study because my mother died at age 59 of sudden cardiac death.   He asked me about my mother. I explained she was a product of the depression with family stress her entire life, who lost a brother in WWII, a smoker who treated her anxiety with alcohol and had spent the year before her death caring for my father who was wasting away from terminal cancer. His death left her  heartbroken and lonely and she died 10 months later. The cardiologist shrugged his shoulders as if to say I had my answer as to why my mother died at age 59. He told me I was fine and sent me on my way.  
I am now 67.  The perfect results of the stress test gave me some comfort; at least for a while.  But the real value of the stress test for me  was the doctor’s linking my Mom’s cardiac event to her life story. My life has been easy compared to hers. I do not smoke or drink and my diet is good. I compared myself to mother, as you should to your brother, and felt good about me, if sad for my Mom.

Go for the stress test to rule out anything sinister.  (And go with just a regular stress test.  My one regret was consenting to the thallium for my first test.)  Allow the good results I am sure you will get to wash over you, with the comfort that your healthy lifestyle will keep you well.  My very best to you.

 

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On 2/25/2020 at 3:40 PM, RRaider95 said:

I'm considering taking xanax before I go in, but I don't want to throw off any of the tests.  Then again, I don't want her to think that my heart rate is 125 all the time.

I wouldn't take any medicine before you go in, they do an EEG in most cardio officers. Your taking a lot of the right steps to be healthy! Let the heart doctor hear you out and listen to what he has to say. 🙂 If it helps to write out what your going to say prior to going, make sure you do that.

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Thanks so much @AOKAY, @Total Eclipse for the responses!  I'm less than 24 hours away from my appointment now.  AOkay, your response helped tremendously.  

Can I ask why you don't recommend the thallium stress test?  I would google but I'm too afraid. 😞 

Total, I just typed up everything I want to say and my meds, so I should be good to go!

Praying for peace and sleep tonight...

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I once had chest discomfort and I went to the ER. Before they would let me leave, I had to take a nuclear stress test and I was OK. My wife once had chest pains and was throwing up. She went to the ER and her heart was fine. An EGD the next week turned up a polyp wrapped in her stomach which caused her issues. 

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Just got back from cardiologist.  Said that I definitely have coronary artery disease; the question is whether any narrowing of arteries has occurred yet.  She said a stress test will show that.  She said my stress test will use technecium, not thallium.  

She was super nice.

Said that if no narrowing, we take the "prevent" approach like I have been doing; if there is narrowing, will look at going in and doing some "plumbing".

Stress test is Wednesday morning.  Wish me luck!

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Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I have a friend of mine who is now 70. He had a stress test at age 68, which showed some abnormal readings, He went in for a cardiac catherization and he was clear as day. 

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Good luck tomorrow morning, RR. 
In my case I was age 50 and had no indications of heart disease other than my Mom’s sudden death.  I would have preferred they start the testing with a non-nuclear stress test so as to avoid exposure to radioactive materials. In my teen years I had severe inflammatory bowel disease and my body absorbed considerable X-ray exposure due to numerous barium enema procedures. (In those days they did not have scopes.)

I highly recommend you take a Xanax tonight to help you sleep. I’ve learned to do that the night before any procedure. 
Sending you positive thoughts. 

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Thanks, all.  I'm really scared today.  Can't focus on anything at work.

I keep trying to tell myself that if I had any narrowing of heart vessels, I wouldn't be able to exercise 5 days a weeks like I do.

They told me I can't take ANY medication tomorrow morning.  If I don't take my klonopin, I'll be a complete mess.  I called up there, and they said if it doesn't affect my blood pressure, I can take it with a sip of water.  I also want to take a couple of Xanax tomorrow right before the appt--that's what got me through the cardiologist appt on Monday.  Hopefully that won't adversely affect the results, but I can't imagine how they could get any sort of accurate results if I'm panicky and my heart's bouncing all over the place.  🙂 

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1 hour ago, RRaider95 said:

Thanks, all.  I'm really scared today.  Can't focus on anything at work.

I keep trying to tell myself that if I had any narrowing of heart vessels, I wouldn't be able to exercise 5 days a weeks like I do.

They told me I can't take ANY medication tomorrow morning.  If I don't take my klonopin, I'll be a complete mess.  I called up there, and they said if it doesn't affect my blood pressure, I can take it with a sip of water.  I also want to take a couple of Xanax tomorrow right before the appt--that's what got me through the cardiologist appt on Monday.  Hopefully that won't adversely affect the results, but I can't imagine how they could get any sort of accurate results if I'm panicky and my heart's bouncing all over the place.  🙂 

Good luck and keep talking to us. Things are going to be ok.  Ask them if you can take your anxiety medicine. They may want to see how it spikes and how the Benzos calm your heart. 

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Definitely let them know about your anxiety. I had a stress test last October that came back abnormal because I was pretty much having an anxiety attack and hyperventilating through the entire thing. The good thing is that apparently they can tell exactly where your results are coming from. In my case, my abnormal results were caused by anxiety and being very deconditioned (I’m pretty weak), not anything serious. Good luck! You will be ok!

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Just because you have an abnormal stress test, it does not always mean bad news. There are false positives as with any such test. 

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Well, I did it!
 
Got there at 8:30, very anxious.
Had taken .75mg of klonopin earlier in the morning, along with .25mg of xanax
Took another .25mg of xanax after going back to get IV, and another .25mg after the technician said it was okay To take more. 
 
When I got the IV and the initial injection of technetium, I get really panicky.  I was convinced it was the injection, but it was the anxiety of being there coupled with the anxiety of what the injection might be like.  The technician said that I might taste or smell something.  The power of suggestion is soooo strong.
 
I went to the lobby and sat with my wife.  I downed the bottle of water they gave me, as I was so thirsty, and I texted with some friends online.  They really helped to ground me and get me past the panic attack.
 
Soon, they called me back for the resting scan.
I lay there for 10 minutes or so with my arms over my head, just practicing deep breathing.  That helped a ton.
 
After that, they had me go sit outside the treadmill room. My turn for the stress test came.
They had me lie down, and attached electrodes all over, and took my blood pressure.  126/86.  Very good.  Don't remember the heart rate.
They had me get on the treadmill.  I was very anxious, but started walking along.  It was very easy.  They steadily increased the incline and the speed.  Before I knew it, I was five minutes in and had HR of 135 and a BP of 170/100.  They said all was normal.  They asked if I could go longer.  I said sure.  We went 7 minutes.  Then she asked if I could go 9.  I said sure.  Then she said if I could go 11:30, that would put me in the top tier of fitness, so I said bring it on.  I did it, got another injection of technetium, and then was allowed to get off the treadmill.  She said I was obviously in excellent shape.  I asked it everything looked good, and she said that obviously the scan could show something, but for a 48 year old to do what I just did showed that things were most likely all okay.  She said the fact that I wasn't winded and kept talking to them throughout was impressive.
I then sat down on the bed.  I started drinking water, and my HR got down to around 130.  She said we need to get my HR lower.  So she had me lie down.  After a little bit (I saw my rate was 120), she took away my pillow.  I practiced deep breathing.  She started talking to me about my kids.  She said she thought that part of the heart rate staying high was because of my anxiety, because once she got me talking about my kids, the HR started to go down.  She then unhooked me.  She said the blood pressure throughout the process all looked good.  I remember seeing a reading of 128/86 after the exercise, but my heart rate was still up.  I was able to glance at the display of my heart rate over the procedure, and it was a nice bell curve. 
 
The whole heart rate thing scared me.
 
We then went back over to the scanning room.  I got another scan of my heart, practicing deep breathing.  After that was done, they took forever to come back in the room.  But when they did, they told me I was good to go!  They sat me up, removed the IV, and let me get dressed.  Said Dr. would have the results for me on Monday.  The first technician said that if anything unusual showed up, Dr. would call me the next day.
 
All in all, not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Just hoping for great results from the test.  I called my brother who had the bypass afterwards, and he said he was only able to stay on the treadmill four minutes and had chest discomfort, so that made me feel better. 
 
Hoping I DONT get a call tomorrow...

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I am glad you are OK and things went well!!!

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In a previous post I made, a friend of mine had an abnormal result and had an angiogram, and was clear as day. 

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I hope you're right @MARC.  The doctor did mention that she thinks it could be a false positive because it's not at the same area of my heart where I've had calcification.  She wants to pursue it anyway because 1) we want to know what's going on, and 2) she says I'll need it to be insurable after having an abnormal stress test.

I just hope that no matter what, it's something that can be corrected without open heart surgery.  I've seen my brother go through that, and I want no part of it.

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Anyone would be nervous, so don`t be too hard on yourself. I have had a number of health issues myself, including a fractured vertebrae, basal cell carcinoma, esophageal ulcer, eye issues, etc. Any health issues are scary, so try to be as positive as possible. 

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Good luck. Try to keep positive, although it can be difficult. Try to remember my friend, who had an abnormal result, and his angiogram was as clear as day. Like I said earlier, anyone would be worried and I will say a prayer for you. 

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