Thursday, December 22, 2011

High Blood Pressure, Chest Pain, and All that Jazz.....


My question has to do with high blood pressure.  I have been taking my blood pressure with a home wrist machine.  It ranges anywhere between 145/90 and has been as high as 175/110 a few times.  Most of the time it ranges in the 150/100 ish.  This has been going on for about 2 years now.  More recently, I have been experiencing a racing heart when I'm at rest.  It's like my heart goes out of control before it corrects itself back to a normal heartbeat.  Within the last couple of months, I have been experiencing heart burn.  I don't know if it is severe or not because I don't have anything to compare it to as I have never experienced heart burn before.  Lastly, and also within the last couple of months, I have experienced pain under my ribcage in the front and up through my right shoulder-blade.  I don't know if this is all related or a coincidence that these have all happened about the same time.

I have no shortness of breath and can exercise without tiring.   My weight is proportionate to my height (5"3, 125 lbs) so my high blood pressure is not a result of being too heavy.

Gender: Female
How old are you?: 52
How long has this been going on?: More than a year
Check all symptoms you are currently experiencing:
Chest Pain

What have you done so far to remedy this condition? Please include tests and relevant studies here.
: Eat healthy and exercise.  I typically stay away from junk food except for once in a while.  My diet consists of fish and whole foods, not processed.  Fruits, vegetables, brown rice and fish make up most of my diet.  Vegetables are fresh, not canned.

Please list any chronic medical problems and also list any prior surgery (lacerations don't count!): None.

Check all that apply to you or your immediate family (parents, siblings, grandparents):
Cardiac Disease

Please list any medication allergies that you have : : None.

Please list any medications you are currently taking (and dosage if known) :: Also, please tell us if there is medicine you are supposed to be taking but are not. Thanks! NONE

When was your last menstrual cycle?: I no longer have a menstrual cycle

Are you currently using or do you have a history of tobacco use?: No

Are you currently using or do you have a history of illegal drug use?: No

Please describe your alcohol consumption :: Occasionally

So that we can serve you best, please try to tell us your top three things you wish to be addressed in our response.

My high blood pressure is untreated because I am uninsured.  Until I am covered under insurance again, I would like to know what I can do to help prevent a heart attack.  I realize that I will need to be seen but at the moment, that is not possible.  Other than baby aspirin and my diet/exercise, is there anything else I can do to tide me over until I can be seen?  I'm just looking for some advice that can help tip the odds in my favor until I can be seen by a physician.



My board certification is in Emergency Medicine. From our perspective and training EVERYONE has a life threatening condition until we prove they don't. Therefore it is from this perspective of 'worst case scenario' that I am going to provide an initial answer. My colleagues will follow, I'm sure, shortly.

Three things.....

1. You are at risk of heart attack and are having some symptoms that might be angina. Your blood pressure is all over the place, and the device you use may be part of the problem. You can get a three day blood pressure check at the health department or even at the fire station down the street using a manual cuff and a set of real human ears. This average measurement will be much more telling of your real blood pressure. Also, you would feel pretty silly if you showed up in heaven and St. Peter said, "Oh! You are here early!" And you found out that the blood pressure medicine you are now missing costs four dollars for a month's supply, and that a visit with a primary care physician who could give you the once-over and get you back on some inexpensive and efficacious medicines would be about $125. Not trying to scare you, just saying that you have some cardiac risk factors and you are taking a gamble waiting for your insurance.

2. A baby aspirin a day and good diet and exercise is great. Keep doing it.

3. You may have a gall bladder problem causing many of your symptoms. If the sharp pain you get is pain that comes particularly after eating then I am even more suspicious of this. Click on this sentence to learn about the symptoms of gall bladder disease and see if you agree. Now here you are really going to run into a money problem and there's nothing you can do, if you have gallstones, to reverse the process apart from having your gall bladder out. Be aware though, that if I am correct about your gall bladder, that you run the risk of developing Cholecystitis

I am going to make room for my colleagues here. Do not put of a primary care visit for the sake of 'waiting on your insurance'. The cost is less than you think for a one time 'howdy do' and some medication prescriptions. The doc could also get an idea about your gall bladder and could form a plan of action with you were it to become worse suddenly.

Thanks so much for your question!


1) YOUR BLOOD PRESSURES : The range you describe is not good. (should be around 130/80). The wrist blood press. cuffs are often inaccurate. You can google mayo clinic wrist blood pressure monitors to see if you are doing measurements correctly. Very likely the family history of hi b.p. is partly responsible for your pressures.

2) RAPID HEART RATE (tachycardia) can be related to hi thyroid levels in the blood &/or some changes in the conduction system of the heart.

3) RIGHT SIDED PAIN UNDER RIBS GOING TO RT. SHOULDER BLADE. Could be gall bladder or liver problems.

4) "HEARTBURN". ( Unrelated to the heart). Stomach and esophageal reflux of acid. Tums or over the counter Omeprazole can help.

5) DIET. Low fat intake and avoiding acidic foods might help gall bladder and heartburn

6) SUMMARY:(a) Bl.Press. needs to controlled!! probably with medication since your weight,exercise and eating habits seem good.
(b) Need heart evaluation! (ekg etc} to check out heart rate & rhythm
(c) Need gall bladder evaluation (ultra sound etc.)
(d) One of our docs has a lot of emergency room experience and maybe he can help out on where to get things done that won't cost you an arm and a leg. I would be quite hesitant to continue on without getting these things checked out.

Good Luck---don't wait too long!!

Space Doc


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your help.