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May 1, 2011 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Yes, yes, YANMD. When I'm very stressed I feel slight pain/weakness on the left side of my chest, under my armpit and sometimes across my shoulder.

So...am I at risk for a heart attack or something?

It's not very painful, just slightly, and as I said, it makes my shoulder feel weak.

I think I'm in fairly good health -- I'm 25 years, 5'10", 124 lbs. I don't get that much sleep, but that's somewhat to be expected as I'm a grad student and freelance designer. I don't get sick that often, maybe 2 or 3 colds a year at most.

I don't really have any other health issues, aside from the chest pain, which only happens when I'm very stressed (which is quite often, unfortunately...).

Is there some other, less threatening, explanation for the pain other than IMMINENT HEART ATTACK?

posted by joyeuxamelie to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you are a grad student, you have health insurance. Go get checked. I can think of other things this might be, but if there's a chance it's a heart issue, why wouldn't you go get checked?

Even if it's not a heart thing, maybe the doc can prescribe physical therapy for your posture issues or whatever else might be causing it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:55 PM on May 1, 2011

Stress can cause chest pain in the absence of heart disease or other illness. But do go to the doctor and get everything else ruled out.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 1:01 PM on May 1, 2011

It sounds like you are having the symptoms of stable angina, which as ferdinand.bardamu suggests can occur in relatively healthy people under high stress. However, as LobsterMitten says you should have it checked out; I think your probability of having actual heart trouble at 25 is low, but it is much more likely to indicate a complication of something more common like diabetes or high blood pressure. If it's diabetes, and I think this is one of the more likely possibilities, you want to know NOW because the sooner you get it under control the less damage will be done while it's not.
posted by localroger at 1:04 PM on May 1, 2011

Response by poster: @localroger : my parent have diabetes and every once in a while I'll check my blood sugar using their monitor. I do have normal sugar levels :)
posted by joyeuxamelie at 1:15 PM on May 1, 2011

I get that pain too. The doctor says my heart is healthy. Doctors have never offered a good reason for the pain. I am normal weight and have no chronic diseases. I am not sure what it is, but I have had that pain intermittently for years. I do have a panic disorder and get stressed easily.

Anyway, if you can, see a doctor. Hopefully, you will get a better diagnosis, then "gee, I have no idea."
posted by fifilaru at 1:25 PM on May 1, 2011

joyeuxamelie, that's good. There are some other underlying causes like blood pressure you might want to check but if you've ruled out the most common (in young people) stuff like that I wouldn't worry about it too much. Sheer pure stress does cause it in some people.
posted by localroger at 1:41 PM on May 1, 2011

Oh, and a PS -- when are you checking your blood sugar? When I figured out what was happening to me my fasting levels were relatively normal, but they were soaring for a few hours after a high carb meal. Unlikely to be a problem if your fasting levels are in the 80's mg/dl, but if they're in the 90's it could be more serious than you realize.
posted by localroger at 1:44 PM on May 1, 2011

Get the heart thing checked, definitely. Your heart is one of those things that you can't ignore and hope for the best - it's also worth spending whatever it costs to get checked and fixed, if needed.

But.. like fifilaru, I get the same pain, my doctor says my heart is healthy, and I have a panic disorder and get stressed easily (Uh, high-five to fifilaur, my long-lost sister?). I have discovered that when I am stressed, I hold my body in strange and confounding ways that are not obvious to me until the pain starts - in my chest, shoulder and back areas. I also sleep in weird positions when I'm stressed out. It used to be a mild thing and, after many years, it now takes me a few days to unfurl the knots and, subsequently, lose the pain.

Prevention is the key for me - recognizing when I'm stressed out, going to yoga classes and doing stretches, and paying a lot of attention to my body (am I clenching my muscles? Am I slouching because I'm stressed? Am I sitting weirdly because I'm working really hard on something for a long period of time? etc.) Deep breathing. Finding ways to eliminate my stress. And, with the panic disorder, I've also been talking to a good therapist and, when needed, taking meds - because panic makes a person tense and stressed and.. yep, clenchy-muscled.
posted by VioletU at 3:13 PM on May 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I sometimes get pain in my chest (ribcage) and occasionally pain in my shoulders from costochondritis flareups.
posted by galadriel at 6:45 PM on May 1, 2011

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