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Experiencing pain in the left arm radiating to neck and back. Family history of heart disease. Wake up with sweat. Suggestions?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2001
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Hello, I am a woman 41 years of age, no cholesterol, low blood pressure (sometimes too low) with a family history of heart disease. My mother has had bypass surgery twice and my brother suffered a massive heart attack at the age of 43 (6 blocked arteries). I have been experiencing pain in my left arm which radiates into my neck and back. I also have heart palpitations, wake at night in a sweat and feel anxious.
My GP feels I should not worry about my risk until menopause.
Posted Mon, 23 Sep 2013 in Hypertension and Heart Disease
Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 42 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Unlikely related to your heart

Detailed Answer:
Hi, thanks for using healthcare magic

It is understandable, with your family history, to be concerned about your symptoms.

There is a risk score called the framingham risk score that is used to determine the risk of a heart event or stroke in a 10 year span.

This risk score is widely used to determine if a person is at risk. It looks at your age, whether you are a smoker, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and blood pressure.

It assigns points to each category depending on the answer.

Assuming you are not a smoker and your total cholesterol is 160 to 199 (this is 3 points, if it is less than 160 that would be 0 points).
If your HDL is high (which would be good) then that would be 0 or -1 points.

This would mean that you should have less than 9 points total and your risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years is less than 1 %.

Heart pain is more likely to occur during active times because this is the time when the heart is more active and needs more blood.
The pain would normally resolve when the person rests.

It is unusual for the pain to start at rest.

Palpitations can also occur due to thyroid disease, anemia, excess caffeine use and anxiety.

If you wish to rule out heart disease you can have an ECG done. This would check the rhythm of the heart, any enlargements, rate of the heart beat and also show if there are any areas of decreased blood supply.

If this is normal, then your symptoms are unlikely cardiac and you doctor can look for other causes.

I hope this helps, feel free to ask any additional questions

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