A MUST read: I dodged a bullet ...............(long)
I am sharing this story in case it helps any of the readers of this forum, your families or friends.
About two months ago, I was experiencing this dull ache in my left arm. It was there most of the time and changing the position of the arm did not seem to alleviate it. After a month when it did not cease, I saw my internist. He did the usual EKG, etc and said that he thought it was a pinched nerve. However, he felt that out of an abundance of caution, I should see a cardiologist. I did this and the cardiologist also said that he was sure that it was nothing to do with my heart but suggested that we go ahead and do a thallium stress test. At the time I saw the cardiologist, the ache in my arm had still not ceased.
A week later, I did have the stress test - by which time the ache just disappeared as mysteriously as it started. The actual stress test went great but the results of the thallium study - which is where they inject a radio-active dye so that they can observe the circulation within the arteries would be available only in a couple of days.
The next thing I know is that I get a call from the cardiologist saying that there was "inconclusive" evidence that there might be a partial blockage in my right coronary artery (RCA). But he also said that he was convinced that it was more than likely a false reading but that the only way to know for sure is by having a cardiac catherization done. He did not see this as an urgent situation but something that we should do at some point. I asked if I should cut down on my exercise program and the cardiologist said that there was no need to do so.
At the urging of family and friends - several of whom are doctors - I went ahead and scheduled the test. NO ONE believed that there could be anything wrong. It was done just over a week ago.
Lo and behold, the test showed that my RCA was 90% blocked in two sections. Three stents were inserted to correct the situation. They also found that there is a 80% blockage in the left artery (LAD)! I have to go back early in the new year to have a stent put in there! The RCA had a clot already forming and I was told that it was a matter of time before I had a severe heart attack!
I basically dodged a bullet!
Why did everyone - health care professionals as well as lay-people - feel that it could not be my heart? First, there were absolutely NO SYMPTOMS other than the dull ache in my left arm. I run about 35-40 miles a week and despite the blockages there was no chest or other pain. I have no family history of coronary disease. I am very careful with my diet - I am substantially vegetarian though I do eat fish for protein. I hardly ever eat meat or chicken. I have blood pressure that is typically around 110/70. Blood-work has been fine for years - though I do take the lowest dosage of lipitor to keep my cholesterol low. I was just not the type of person one would consider at risk for heart disease. I used to be inactive, over-weight and careless about my diet in years gone by - so a lot of the damage was probably done during that period.
We read of runners who suddenly drop dead. I found out that the likely reason that I had no symptoms such as chest pain etc despite heavy exercising, is because the running caused collateral circulation to develop in my heart which camouflaged the impact of the blocked arteries. Someone who is less active would more than likely have had chest pain, etc with even minor exertion.
The purpose of this post, is to alert everyone that one should be very careful about even minor symptoms being indicative of a bigger problem. IT CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE. If I had not had this dull ache in my left arm - or if it had faded away in a few days - I'd never have had the tests done that resulted in the diagnosis of nearly blocked main arteries. Take care of your health - while you have it!