Heart Health

Story time…

On Thanksgiving I had some tightness in my chest. Like crushing pressure that was new and like nothing I had felt before.

A little back story about me. I am a 40yr old, former smoker, with three young children, plus one. Their ages are 10yo, 6yo, 5yo and just turned 5yo. They are all girls, so drama sometimes runs rampant and temper tantrums have been a thing lately that I hope passes as quickly as it came, lol! I stay fairly active and I workout 4 days a week. I also eat fairly healthy, sticking to the 80/20 rule when eating.

Anyways back to the tightness. It was a super chill morning, nothing stressful when I felt this tightness in my chest come on out of nowhere. I remembered from my CPR/First Aid training to chew aspirin. So I chewed two 81mg baby aspirin because that’s all I had at the moment and figured two was better than none. 

After a few minutes, I kinda felt slightly better, so we waited a little longer and then went on with the day to Wisconsin for family dinner. I did take a couple advil later that afternoon and eventually the feeling went away.

So, was it a muscle strain from working out or something? Maybe. Idk?? At least that’s what I told myself because the feeling went away.

However a couple weeks later, it happened again. Same tightness, crushing feeling on my chest and no it wasn’t heartburn, either. I’ve had that since pregnancy #1, thanks Lydia! But it was the same tightness again, and it felt crushing. I chewed up 4 aspirin this time around and I felt better almost instantaneously. And yeah, I know I should have went to the doctors/hospital right then, but I do not like doctors or hospitals. However, I made the appointment with my primary physician. The first appointment was February 1. I went February 1 and he sent me for an echo stress cardiogram just to rule anything out. 

My echo stress cardiogram was February 8. I called the office the day before my appointment because I realized no one gave me any instructions as to if there was anything I needed to avoid before my test. Here is what I was told. The pre op echo stress cardiogram instructions were as followed: 

  • No eating/drinking 4 hours before test
  • Can sip water to take medications
  • No nicotine
  • No caffeine
  • No oils, lotions or creams on chest day of
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothes
  • Wear tennis shoes 👟
  • Test can take up to one hour

The morning of my test I didn’t eat or drink anything, took a few sips of water to take my vitamins, I didn’t have my coffee, which was kind of a bummer, but I could live without it for that morning. I quit smoking 3 years ago and don’t put any oils or creams on, so put on some comfy clothes and tennis shoes and off to my test I went.

I got to the office 10 minutes before my appointment to check in, however the office opened right at 8am, so I waited until they opened the doors to go inside. I checked in and filled out paperwork. I had to verify and update some information, like usual for doctors appointments. And then there was the consent form for the echo cardiogram which states that if during the test further treatment is needed due to an emergency that occurs or complications from the test, and then goes on to lists off a few heart problems that could occur. Once someone explained a little more about what I was going to be doing, I signed the consent form.

The nurse explains the test. I will be hooked up to an EKG (electrocardiogram) machine to monitor my heart while I am on the treadmill, which will be at a certain incline and speed for 3 min and increase every three minutes from then on until I am using at least 85% of my maximum heart rate. She advised since I workout 4 days a week, that I should try to shoot for a little more since my heart is conditioned a little better. Every 1.5 minutes she would be checking my blood pressure, as well.

The test started at a brisk walk. I had my hands on the bare in front of me because it starts at an incline and goes up. The nurse checks my blood pressure at 1.5 minutes and it’s still pretty normal. I’m not paying too much attention because I’m more focused on my breathing and also not tripping over my feet, or the cords.

I had it to 10min, so three 3 minutes increase for the incline and speed. The nurse kept asking how I was feeling after every increase. It went from a 2/3 to a 4/5 to a 7 to a stop. Which did I mention it’s a very abrupt stop? Then, I had to jump onto the table and have the ultrasound technician take some images of my heart when it was under stress to compare with the pre-test images.

I got my test results the next week and everything showed normal functioning pre-testing and post testing. My doctor suspected costochondritis, which is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects the cartilage to the breastbone. This makes sense because the causes are coughing excessively, injury to your chest or physical strain from repeated exercise or sudden exertion that you’re not use to. The last cause is the one I’m going with. I weight train and had increased my weights around that time this tightness started. I think I strained the cartilage that connects to the breastbone. It hasn’t happened since and my doctor cleared my heart.

My mind has been put to ease that it wasn’t a heart attack or other heart issue for that matter I am glad I did get it checked out to rule anything out. I’m back to weight training and almost back up to the weight I was lifting and I’m feeling pretty good about it this time. I learned some new stretches to help with my neck, spine and posture and I feel that has helped significantly with less muscle soreness. 

Moral of the story. When it comes to your health, don’t hesitate to get something checked out. Even if it’s a “little thing” or “no big deal”. 

~Molly Martin, CPT, LDA
Independent Contractor CPR Professionals