Monday, December 19, 2005

"New" Sign for Heart Disease

A new study from the New England Journal of Medicine shows that shortness of breath is a new sign for heart disease--especially for women. I already knew that--seems obvious--but read more about it at WebMD Blog.


Blogger Yosemite Sam said...

That's how my heart disease was diagnosed. I had no other symptoms, but had severe shortness of breath even with minimal exertion. I went to the doctor and she immediately sent me to the hospital. I was 38 at the time and am now 40. They did a stress test and found that I had an almost complete blockage at the juncture of two arteries. They did an angioplasty and inserted a stint. I think I was very lucky that I didn't have a heart attack and suspect that if I hadn't gone to the doctor I wouldn't be here today. While I was in the hospital they discovered that I had diabetes and I suspect that caused the blockage. The gist of all of this is that if you have shortness of breath and even if you are young, go to the doctor. You may save your life.

5:04 PM, December 19, 2005  
Blogger Polynices said...

What I find interesting given my medical training is that while shortness of breath doesn't obviously point to heart disease in my mind (though that's on the list) what it does point to is *something* seriously wrong and in need of a workup. So a competent doctor shouldn't need this new study as they should be carefully working up anyone with this symptom -- and they'll catch heart disease even if they are not explicitly looking for it.

OTOH, another thing my medical training did was teach me that there are HUGE numbers of really mediocre doctors out there. =(

5:17 PM, December 19, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the past month you told us about a wrist monitor, and I bought one for my wife, who has moderately high blood pressure. A few days ago she was feeling weak, and took her blood pressure: 85/52! She called 911 and the ambulance took her to the hospital. We don't have a diagnosis yet, but she is feeling much better.

So, thanks to that little tip you gave us about a helpful device that may well have saved my wife's life.

8:55 PM, December 19, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


Wow, you and your wife are one of several who have told me they had a checkup because of my blog--Hopefully, your wife's low blood pressure is nothing serious. Heck, my blood pressure this morning was 82/54. Please keep me posted on your wife's condition.

9:04 PM, December 19, 2005  
Blogger Kathy said...

I had shortness of breath and tightness/pain in my chest last spring for a couple of weeks, off and on, getting worse with exertion, etc. I called my Ob since I was a few months pregnant, and he sent me to the ER. They ran a bunch of tests and didn't find anything. I could hear the ER doctor talking to some of the staff out in their "office" area (I'm sure he didn't think I could hear him, but my door was open and he wasn't that far away), telling them he didn't know why I had come in when there was nothing wrong with me. He had a scornful tone. I came in because my OB sent me. I just wanted to be sure nothing serious was wrong. In the end my OB decided it was stress plus some of the symptoms were associated with pregnancy (I didn't know a racing heart was a pregnancy-related symptom), and it did go away, so that may have been all it was.

10:44 PM, December 19, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


Don't let these "scornful" doctors intimidate you--at least you found out that you were okay. The doctor who misdiagnosed my heart attack as anxiety also had a scornful tone--it would have helped if he had traded scorn for thoroughness. Glad you are okay!

8:53 AM, December 20, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That happened to my aunt in Germany. For years, she was on an inhaler, the doctor thinking her shortness of breath was due to asthma. Then she was found to have heart problems, got a pacemaker, and is now much better.

11:40 AM, December 20, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being very technically minded... I know it's a curse *grin*... I did wish that the WebMD site had said a little bit more about the "shortness of breath" symptom. In other words - I tried to read it as a regular reader would (being formerly a nurse and having to do patient instruction I try to look for things that patients might misinterpret) and I was thinking... what do they mean by "shortness of breath"? In other words - how much or about how much exertion should a normal person be able to handle? Are we talking a walk across the room? A walk out to the mailbox? That kind of thing. It's very confusing to people when these things aren't explained properly. They may be concerned if they read this and they're out of shape thus out of breath by climbing stairs... which would be normal for someone who doesn't exercise... and while it indicates they need to do some exercise, that might not indicate actual heart problems. Those who have experienced heart problems might think it's obvious... it really isn't to those who have never dealt with it at all... and WebMD is meant to give information to people who are not medical people.

As for BP - mine runs very low too generally the low hundreds over 60. A couple of years ago I had to go to a treatment center for a really bad migraine (I was in the middle of traveling and couldn't continue without medication) and my BP during an all out session of extreme pain was 90/50 I figured it would certainly be like 140/80 or something outrageous. First time I ever had a BP during a heavy duty headache.

1:58 PM, December 20, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy cats ... this is just now becoming mainstream medical knowledge?

For years - decades even, paramedics were being taught that myocardial infarction in the female had a completely different set of signs and symptoms than in the male. Left arm pain or numbness, jaw pain or numbness, shortness of breath, the cardiac pledge (right hand over the heart, torso bent forward slightly), abdominal pain, feeling of impending doom ... these and some other kind of odd symptoms could be indicative of MI in a female. EKGs will also often be different that what would be expected. And that MIs can happen to anyone, regardless of age.

We were taught to suspect the worst, to not write off the anxious and out of breath woman as just hysterical or stressed and treat the symptoms as a whole picture. However, every medic out there has had the experience of presenting to the ER doc a carefully examined and evaluated patient, with complete history, response to treatment, EKGs and clinical observations only to be poo-poo'd and the patient relegated to a low triage priority.

Maybe paramedics should be running the ERs ...

7:41 PM, December 20, 2005  
Blogger Kathy said...

Helen said: Don't let these "scornful" doctors intimidate you--at least you found out that you were okay.

I felt really bad after I heard him make that comment, but then I still left the hospital knowing something was wrong but not what it was.

teresa said: Those who have experienced heart problems might think it's obvious... it really isn't to those who have never dealt with it at all...

That's it exactly. I've read about the symptoms, but the descriptions are very vague and since I have no experience there I need guidance to know when to worry. Because I said the magic words "chest pain," my OB sent me to the ER and the ER sent me straight to a room, but then it turned out I had the wrong kind of chest pain (I guess). How am I supposed to know that? Either give us better info or don't be mad when we come in and it turns out to be nothing. Besides, if it was serious and I didn't go in, then there'd be another lecture about how women just don't pay attention to these warning signs. . .

lissakay said: Maybe paramedics should be running the ERs ...

My brother, a fireman/paramedic, would agree with you. My sister is a family practice doctor, and my brother contends that doctors are useless in an emergency; they have to look everything up in a book. Of course, he and my sister have always bickered endlessly, so that could have something to do with it too. . .

10:38 PM, December 20, 2005  
Blogger Doug said...

OTOH, another thing my medical training did was teach me that there are HUGE numbers of really mediocre doctors out there.

It seems rare that a large number of people participate in some activity or kind of activity without introducing mediocrity. Given that the excellent are few in number, expansion of participation in an activity must almost certainly lead to a reduction in the quality of the performances.

11:22 PM, December 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO: Helen
RE: This is 'New'??!?!?

"A new study from the New England Journal of Medicine shows that shortness of breath is a new sign for heart disease...." -- Helen

Cripes! One would have thought they 'new' this a long time ago.

Then there was the recent realization that—Hey!—maybe sleep apnea causes heart disease and not the other way around. What a bunch of bozos.

No wonder I'm so often disappointed in what passes for 'modern medicine' around here. Reading the Sharpe's Rifles series and they keep bleeding the sick and wounded and I keep reading stuff like THIS and think, there's not that much change over the last 200 years. At least not in terms of the basic mentality.

Merry Christmas,


10:42 AM, December 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. I came across this blog while searching for information on heart disease. I thought I might get some feedback from some of you. I've had what feels like a heart arrhythmia for about 3 years. I've been to a family doctor and a cardiologist, both of whom couldn't get an abnormal reading of my heart. Lately I've had a greater shortness in breath, and a pounding heartbeat which leaves me feeling weak and tired. I've been to an emergency doctor who did a KEG, checked blood pressure, etc. His diagnosis: nothing is wrong, go get some exercise and live your life. I suppose it didn't help that I asked him why he hadn't bothered to ask me several logical questions (family history, medications, scenarios which may trigger the chest pain...). I told him that I am deathly afraid of having blood taken and that I faint so quickly that it feels like (what I can only describe as) dying. He said that I needed to loosen up; I'm too stressed. Now this may very well be true, but I can't seem to find a doctor who will take me seriously and not send me home like my pain is a figment of imagination. I've been to four doctors and they're all the same: one look, and they say, go home, relax, enjoy life. I'm 30 years old, my father had heart troubles in middle-age, and I've had nothing but bad experiences with doctors. Can anyone help with some advice? Could these doctors be right and I'm too stressed out about the whole thing? Thanks! -Havvy

5:17 AM, September 05, 2006  
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Blogger Unknown said...

I have been having trouble for a long time. Shortness of breath headaches, dizziness. The doctors found the wall of my heart is too thick and not letting the blood flow out like it should. They still say it has nothing to do with my shortness of breath, but it is weird that the shortness of breath is the same time my heart is acting up or with exertion when the blood isnt flowing enough.

2:35 PM, August 11, 2009  

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