Last summer, I started having serious problems with heartburn and some digestive upset. I saw the gastroenterologist and we really didn’t find anything. I was told to cut some things out of my diet. I did. It didn’t help and I just decided it was one of those things. Last week with my father in the hospital, I noticed the very determined heartburn was happening more often, especially when I went to bed at night. It doesn’t respond to antacids or anything else I’ve tried. Then my father passed away and I had a different thought. My father died of congenital heart disease… hereditary based heart disease along with some genetic heart defects. Maybe they didn’t find anything at the GI doctor’s because it’s not heartburn…
My father had angina for close to a decade before he had his first heart attack in his forties. And then came Tuesday night. Tuesday night, I felt strange all evening. We’d had a visitation for the immediate family before they cremate my father so his siblings could say their goodbyes. And my stress has been way up this week as I try to untangle his affairs.
My primary care physician joked when I was 22 and we got my cholesterol check back to find it high that for my 40th birthday, I’d be getting a cardiologist. I decided Wednesday afternoon, as the chest pain came back that I probably needed it sooner than 5 months from now because that heartburn I can’t get rid of might in fact be angina (I’ll turn 40 in August). The primary aortic valve on my father’s heart had 4 flaps, not the normal 3. I’m not on cholesterol medication although I have been thinking since last summer, it probably wouldn’t be a bad thing if I was, my father needed them for many years partly due to lifestyle and partly due to his body, some people just make too much cholesterol – having PCOS, I’m one of those people and since that seems to have come from my father’s side of the family, it’s possible my father had it too – he had all the symptoms men get; apple shaped, heart disease, diabetic, etc, etc.
I can’t tell you why it took 8 months to think that the issues I was having might be angina and not heartburn as I thought. I worry about DVT, but I don’t give much thought to the fact that I am super high risk for congenital heart disease. My elderly primary care physician is doing telemedicine appointments and I called them on Wednesday afternoon to get an appointment, I will be seeing my primary on Friday morning at 10am. Oddly, despite having high cholesterol I have exceptionally low blood pressure and this is probably why I’ve never given much thought to my risk of heart disease or the possibility that the pain I’m experiencing which reminds of a panic attack without the panic is angina.
As for symptoms; I get a pain between my breasts and my chest gets tight. I have thought since the first attack in August it was weird heartburn, because it isn’t a burning pain or a weird panic attack without the fight or flight panic that accompanies them. It lasts a few minutes usually and then goes away and as I deal with the stress of these last two weeks, it is happening more frequently. It most commonly hits when I lay down or do physically taxing things and sometimes is accompanied by nausea and a decrease in appetite the following day. I have been told those symptoms are similar to the ones my father had and he was originally misdiagnosed with GERD because of it. So this will need to be mentioned both with my primary as well as the cardiologist he eventually refers me too.
Now, if I have a valve problem like my father, I should have a heart murmur, but my father didn’t. No one knew there was a valve issue until his gave out and he nearly died in 2010. We were told it was genetic, so I will have to mention that to the cardiologist as well as my father being asymptomatic nearly all his life.
So, now I have that to look forward to as well as the continuing battle to untangle my father’s affairs.