Why did my Angina begin so suddenly? - British Heart Fou...

British Heart Foundation

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Why did my Angina begin so suddenly?


I am at a loss to fathom why my Angina started so suddenly. I am 60, and have always been fairly fit, non smoker, not overweight, but unfortunately have a family history of CHD. Looking back, I did have some mild symptoms, but not ones that led me to think something serious was wrong. Occasionally I would feel nauseous in the afternoons, and used to get headaches which were impossible to shift, but put this down to a few too many pints now and again. I also used to feel quite fatigued when doing heavy digging and suchlike, but put this down to getting older. A week before my problem started I was walking in the lake district, up hills and so on, with no obvious problems. Then I suddenly got all the usual symptoms one day about 6 weeks ago, followed by a repeat but much worse session a day later, brought on by walking fast to catch a bus, and finally the whole right side of my body was very badly affected and also my neck and jaw, resulting in a 999 call and admission. After the usual tests I had 2 stents fitted, my LAD was 95% blocked in one place and not much better in another, and I still have a 50% blockage in the right Artery that was not stented. I am now into the rehabilitation and feel fantastic under the circumstances, regularly out exercising and feeling great in myself. The thing is, I just can't get my head round how things changed so dramatically?? I presume the arteries can't suddenly become that blocked in a short space of time? Anyone any ideas??

18 Replies
MichaelJHHeart Star

Hello and welcome to the forum! Mine started suddenly in early 2017 and culminated in a quadruple this summer. I was not totally surprised because of an appalling family history on the male side. Although I was concerned about heart disease it did not seem to be taken seriously because of good BP and cholesterol. I think the earliest signs were five years earlier and I had reduced my hours mid-2016 because of increasing tiredness. I suspect it builds up over a long time and the one day an artery or arteries cannot supply enough blood to the heart and angina kicks in. It seems your stents are working - they were not an option for me because of calcification!

Some interesting comments. I too have a bad family history, father, his brother mother and grandmother all had it. I have to say my diet as a young man was not great (like a lot of people I would think) , although from about mid thirties onward much better. I did have a "well man" check at 55 and Cholesterol was 4.8, the nurse at the time commented that it could be lower but was below the level at which any action was recommended. Looking back now it is easy to say that maybe much more emphasis should have been put on this given my family history, so maybe there is not enough made of this until the damage has started to be evident. I am still very puzzled as to how it came on so quickly though, maybe, as you say, the day just arrives when the body decides it has had enough and several other factors all come into play at the same time. The NHS seems to be under a bit of fire here, but other than monitoring cholesterol levels and making heath recommendations, it seems to me there is not much that could be done in reality? You can't have routine Angiograms for obvious reasons - are some of the replies suggesting that other countries have different scanners that can actually look at blood-flow in arteries without invasive procedures?


Walking in the lake district in November? I know someone who did this. He didn't look well, he looked grey, facially. But I did not say anything.

There was a radio show on "biological clock". I often say, if you are in your 50s/60s, you're in a danger zone. People must have had some major condition(s) by then. By that time, people have several chronic conditions. As Michael commented, the disease was in the background for some time, maybe, even for years without knowing. Sometimes, we get subtle "warnings" here and there as you have had, but NHS isn't exactly good at providing preventative medicine.

MichaelJHHeart Star in reply to Hidden

I have read two newspaper articles about early detection of CVD this year. In all honesty I find them hard to take seriously when the NHS tend to ignore family history. One medical person even told me that it is not hereditary whilst my surgeon agreed it was. My father, his brother and their father all died prematurely of heart attacks! It's hard to be exact about earlier generations suffice to say there were no old bones.

Hidden in reply to MichaelJH

You know that NHS isn't exactly competing at the top of the international league table. It's more like 17th with some developing countries ahead of it. If you were, let's say, in Germany or Japan, or any other countries (top 1-5), your condition would have been screened well ahead of time. These countries have newer, high tech scans, keen doctors, and much-organised systems to keep you well checked out.

I'm thinking the same about my heart attack. JUst a bit of breathlessness when I bent over in the garden then bang; 100% blockage and heart attack. Obviously the blockage just gradually getting worse. I had asked my GP about the breathlessness but he just put it down to muscular problems


And these GPs go on to continue to practice, producing more patients ending up in a heart surgery theatre...without any legal resource for your job losses/suffering etc. You know that they do earn a decent income. You would have thought any "lethal" diseases are worth looking out for, especially if you are middle-aged and you had some risk factors, which were an obvious clue for someone, who's reasonably health-conscious without any medical degree.

NHS/or medical profession is generally misguided, those who turn you away, saying "muscle pain". Over the years, I learned this. They are not there to get you sorted out at the first/even third sign of big problems. Until you are desperate and "need" their care, you are left alone. Do not trust everything they say because they could well be wrong and they are well allowed to make that mistake without any sort of repercussions. Keep your common sense.

On my first visit to hospital with chest pain and feeling unwell, they did blood test told me I’d not had a heart attack and that if I could cycle 100 miles I had nothing wrong with my heart. Two months later heart attack.

No cycling since as I now get MVA. In my ignorance I believed doctors, not any more, I question and try to understand my treatment as much as possible. I had a year on Statins with really bad side effects. The NHS could be better at preventing these situations.

In my opinion, the problem is twofold. There are far too many people in this country to be looked after by an ever decreasing resource of doctors. Far too many of the ones we train just up sticks and emigrate due to the better pay and working conditions in other countries. In short, successive governments of both colours have let us and the NHS down. This, coupled with the general ignorance and sheer bloody mindedness of some of the population have resulted in the problems we now see with far too many people needing largely self-inflicted problems fixing. You have only to look around you at the ever increasing number of people who are overweight or obese, or continue to smoke and drink to excess despite all the advice to the contrary. Even in my rehab classes there are people asking questions like "well how many biscuits is OK to eat a day" and other such ridiculous questions given their often near-death circumstances. I agree the NHS could be better, but so could the responsibility of many individuals, which would help to free up resource. I have to say the treatment and after-care I have received at the hospital has been absolutely fantastic, and delivered by wonderful and caring professionals, once one has navigated past the smokers outside the hospital door........

Er, pardon me but how have you any idea what my diet consists of?

Hi and welcome. Yes it comes as a bit of a shock, but the positive is, that you now know and they will keep an eye on you. I remember my journey to a diagnosis of Angina. I kept getting pain between my shoulder blades when I walked the dog, carried shopping, did housework etc. The doctor sent me for xray and was told I had arthritis of the spine and I could have some physio. This I had, loads of suction cups on my back over a period of 8 weeks. Bearing in mind, my history, I have had both legs angioplasty due to blockages when I was around 40, and they found at that time, an aortic aneurysm which has been monitored over the years. Also, my family history isn't great. On my Father's side, he had 4 brothers and all of them, including my Father had heart conditions, Limbs removed, bypasses carried out and several other procedures, throughout their lives. Unfortunately, all died of a heart attack, so I believe red flags were flying high!! Over the course of several months, the pain got worse, and I became breathless, but for many visits to the doctors was prescribed painkillers. It wasn't until I could only walk a few metres without puffing and panting, that the doctor referred me to the cardiology department. Eventually I was told I had Angina with three of the heart arteries affected. The pain in the back is apparently common for women as opposed to the common chest pain. You can imagine the shock I was in. Yes I have spinal arthritis, but that wasn't causing the pain. Sorry for the long winded reply, I suppose I am just trying to say that, listen to your body and your gut feeling and keep pushing the doctors for answers. Doctors are brilliant, but they are human and can miss red flags even when they are flying high! The shock does eventually subside and you do begin to realise that your'e actually lucky, at least you know now. All the best for the future and keep us informed of your progress.

Thanks for your great reply. Sound like you were destined to have problems, with your personal and family history I find it incredible that your doctor seemed to be so lax? As you say, at least I know now and am in "the system". I never thought I would have the same problems as my father, who would have had a high fat diet and was a 20 a day man, strong cigarettes as well, and a few years in Burma which probably had an impact on his health. I had always kept myself fit and had a decent diet apart from very early on in life, never smoked or overweight, but still the old widow-maker decided to pay me a visit! I have accepted it now and oddly feel lucky that nothing worse happened, with 2 95% blockages in the LAD and 50% in the right artery it could have been much worse, but now I seem to be feeling better by the day. I am now a vegetarian and very aware of what is going into my body, if anything else happens I want to be able to feel that I have done absolutely everything to prevent further problems. Hope you are starting to feel better as well, thanks!

Hi late guitarist

All I can say is your a very fortunate guy.

I was having moderate chest pain in march.

Like you I have and still have a very physical lifestyle and I was a construction worker..

It was during that snow when my pain appeared.

Very mild to start then I noticed when I was stressed and eaten a heavy meal.

I knew something was wrong but still ad to pushave and push to be seen because I didn't fall into the criteria of a heart patient.

I never smoked

Don't drink

Not overweight and was at the gym most days after work if not running around with my 4girls and crazy dogs.

I was called "sods law" when they finally revealed a 99%blockage in yes...my LAD

So had the stent procedure and really got on with my life but now I suffer daily chest pain and am pushing for more tests because I feel strongly that I now have coronary artery spasms or micro vascular angina. ..Either way it seems I'm one of the unlucky ones where the stent didn't do the whole job like it did for you.

I live in fear of a heart attack now and not seeing my young daughters grow up

I eat as healthy as possible give or take and still do my job and just push through the chest pain that scares me day and night..

While I push for more tests...and probably more side effecting drugs.

I just wish the stent had solved my problems like it did you

Sorry to hear you are still having problems, and probably thinking, like a lot of us do "why me". If we had been smokers or abused ourselves in other ways it might make it easier to bear, but I am afraid life is cruel sometimes. Can I ask, did you have these chest pains initially, or have they come on some time after the stent was fitted? I started to get a feeling of tightness around my breastbone area, but I am sure I have proved it to be the Statins I am on by taking myself off them for periods of time and noticing the feeling coming and going depending on if I was on them or not. Is the pain the same as your initial Angina symptoms? Have they said if they can give you another Angiogram to see if the stent is blocking?

We are the lucky ones.Doctor told me 1 in 15 are walking around unaware there is anything wrong with them.Ticking time bombs.So don't slang off the NHS support them,because without them you would all be no more.Wayne xxx

Have you always had high LDL or high Trigs? There are so many possible root causes to athrosclorosis and for some people endothelium/glycocalyx damage can start at a very young age.

I thought the same thing.... I had an 80% RCA and still have some plaque in Lcx which they did a wire test on and is fine not restricting blood flow... but I too thought I wonder how long it’s been at 80% without me knowing ... I think it only starts to show symptoms once the blockage is big enough to impede blood flow to the heart .... your heart is in fact perfectly healthy it’s the offending artery that isn’t and the pain is simply your heart telling you it’s not getting the blood flow it needs the same as a kidney or gall stone blockage would.... so that’s my take in it.... but now your in the system the question now is... how do they monitor it? One would like to think they would do a six monthly r/v of all CAD patients but what I do know is that besides an angiogram they can do a MIBI ( nuclear stress test) scan which shows blood flow through an artery also echo which shows blood ejection so I guess if you felt you were getting symptoms or even just simply worried if anything had changed after a few years you could ask for one of these xx

I am afraid I don't think they do monitor it, you have to. I was told during rehab that once you are "in the system" you can get fast track access if you have future problems and would get an annual recall for tests and so on. The reality is much different - I had to ring up and ask for the tests, and ended up going to see a "chronic disease nurse", who was next to useless. I have had to chase up just about every aspect of my medication changes, it seems like the chick in the nest scenario.

All I can say is, try and get as genned up as you can and question every medication you are on. I started off on a bucketful and am now down to just Asprin and a Statin. As I have said we are on our own and must ensure we keep as fit and healthy as possible, the NHS was under resourced before all the latest problems, which will burden it for possibly years now unless we get a vaccine.

I use an online company who do really good blood tests so you can monitor your levels yourself, it's the same laboratory that the GP's use, costs £25. Let me know if you want the info...

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