Health Anxiety after heart attack - British Heart Fou...

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Health Anxiety after heart attack

Dougal77 profile image
26 Replies


I am a 45 year old male who suffered a heart attack back in April which resulted in me having 4 stents.

I am constantly fearing that I am going to have another heart attack. I feel chest pain all the time and have been back to A&E three times since.

Has anyone had or is experiencing the same kind of thing?

26 Replies
Becdan profile image

Hello Dougal77

I had a heart attack and 1 stent fitted in August this year.

When I first got out of hospital I was upbeat and positive about the future and making a new start but I had a nasty bout of chest pain which had me visiting A&E, followed by another bout a couple of weeks later.

Since these episodes I have not been able to function properly and like you I am so scared about having another heart attack.

When I think about it I have had 6 ECG's, 4 blood tests which were fine and 2 xrays which were also fine but I still cant relax and every little twinge and ache or pain has me panicking.

To be honest these last few days have been particularly bad with aches and pains and I don't know how I haven't been to A&E this time.

I have to keep telling myself that I am fine, but I am really finding it hard to convince myself of this.

I am awaiting CBT but everything seems to be taking so long at the moment, so yes there are a few of us just like you on these forums.

I don't really know what to say to make you feel better because I am struggling myself at the moment, but you are not alone. Take care.

Dougal77 profile image
Dougal77 in reply to Becdan

Hi Becdan,

Thank you for your response.

I too felt positive and upbeat immediately after having my stents put in.

I could literally go to A&E most days, I am driving my wife mad.

Becdan profile image
Becdan in reply to Dougal77

I am exactly the same. It drives my wife mad as well.

They can sort out your heart and fit stents and do many other things to help your heart, but they never prepare you for the mental health side of it all.

You are quite often on your own with that one unfortunately.

hightrees profile image
hightrees in reply to Becdan

I too have had the same feelings ,no after care from hospital . My attack was 18mths ago ,keep taking meds, live in hope.

Thatwasunexpected profile image

Hi Douglas and welcome.

The fears are a normal part of all this, although 8 months is quite a while to suffer them without support, which must be tough on you 😐

Hope you don"t mind a few questions, but filling a bit more background can help to make (hopefully) useful suggestions for moving forward.

Did you get the chance for a rehab program after the attack (and did you do it if you were offered)?

Do you remember any of the details reported after the attack? Specifically, was it an NSTEMI or STEMI? Did they measure your LVEF (left ventricle ejection fraction) and do you remember what it was? Do you know which arteries caused the attack and which had stents placed in them?

Apart from the anxiety and chest pains, have you noticed other regular symptoms like breathlessness (especially at rest / very light exertion), dizziness or really fast muscle fatigue when you do things?

Are you keeping to the meds prescribed and at least trying with any lifestyle changes suggested?

I know that sounds like a lot of nosiness but it really can help with making specific suggestions :)

Dougal77 profile image
Dougal77 in reply to Thatwasunexpected


Thanks for your message.

When the heart attack happened I was two days from starting a new job. Although no pressure was put on me to get back working I still returned to work 5 weeks later.

I ended up leaving less than two months in as I knew I wasn’t ready.

I am not certain about all the exact details of the procedure, all I really know is that I had four stents put in. It’s all still a bit of a blur.

I am experiencing numbness in my hands and feet, especially my right foot.

I have totally stuck to my medication, and I am trying to make healthier choices with regards to eating and drinking etc.

Please ask anything as I really appreciate any help and advice.

Thank you

Thatwasunexpected profile image
Thatwasunexpected in reply to Dougal77

First of all, well done on the meds - they really do make a huge difference to your odds!

And no worries about not remembering the details - that's not unusual with loads of scary medical terms being thrown around while you're (naturally) scared senseless!

Now things have calmed down, though, it might be worth asking your GP for a copy of the hospital's report. Even if it all looks like gibberish (it will), between us we can help to decipher it and understanding exactly what happened can really help with beating the anxiety.

You don't mention any rehab classes, is that because there weren't any or because they didn't help?

Also, did they put a GTN spray on your prescription and, if they did, have you found yourself using it?

Dougal77 profile image
Dougal77 in reply to Thatwasunexpected


I literally went to one rehabilitation class as I couldn’t make the times etc as I was just about to start new job at the time. That’s my fault though, I could of made it happen.

Yes got the GTN spray, doesn’t really seem to do anything though?

I will request information from the cardiology department at the hospital.

Thank you

Thatwasunexpected profile image
Thatwasunexpected in reply to Dougal77

Yeah, rehab and work can be a problem - the sessions all seem to be arranged for the "typical" retiree or "retiring because of the attack" patient. Especially with a new job where you can't really be asking for time straight away (well, legally you can but it just feeks wrong)!

I was lucky that, as I'm self-employed, I could just change my shop hours to suit the rehab.

It would be well worth contacting your local rehab department and see if they can accommodate you on a "late" course. One of the biggest benefits is getting to work out (and put your heart under some strain) knowing there are experts on hand to advise and react if anything goes wrong.

Everyone has to learn to trust their own body again after a heart attack - it's kind of like the biggest betrayal ever when your own heart "lets you down". And one of the best possible ways to do that is to progressively put it through its paces to prove to yourself that it still works.

But that's REALLY hard to do without the backup of knowing there's someone there trained in how to save you (again) if needed.

The GTN spray is good, btw. That and an aspirin (if you're not allergic) are the two first-line drugs an ambulance crew would use if you needed them, because both will help to restore blood supply. So having both in your pocket, you know that you can get a head start on treatment while waiting for them if it's ever needed!

It's also really positive news that it "doesn't do much" (apart from probably giving you a headache!). If chest pain doesn't respond to GTN then it means one of two things.

Either (most likely) it's NOT your heart causing it, or it's a really serious blockage that no amount of "opening blood vessels" is going to help.

But, if it was the second case, then you wouldn't be "wondering if it's my heart" - you'd know beyond any doubt at all!

Dadtoalad23 profile image

Well I’m new here also. I although I haven’t had a heart attack I’ve been diagnosed with persistent atrial fibrillation and coronary artery disease I’m 47. I have moderate plaque in my LAD mild in distal part of same vessel and mild in circumflex. Tbh it was some what of a shock.

I can totally sympathise with the anxiety the wording of the letter I received made me panic as it stated “we will have to consider anti platelets if he has a stent or cardiac event” even though they said with symptoms we won’t stent. Niggles in my chest I thought were due to AF now have me thinking I’m imminently going to have a heart attack. This completely messes with my mind and anxiety.

I’m also driving my wife mad and it’s not great for our lives. Mr that was unexpected has given me some good advice and helped me as have others in this forum. Thank goodness they pop up with some positivity and advice.

I’m 100% going to get therapy. Will be calling them this week for support. I’ve also been reading about stoic philosophy. Even though I haven’t had a heart attack or stroke of which I’m high risk of both the fear of them is seriously affecting my life. I know I must change this fear otherwise I’m not living and letting myself and family down. Easier said than done.

For me information and knowledge about my condition helps, although again it can also cause more anxiety, searching through scientific papers and Patient experiences, doesn’t always yield peace of mind. But at the least find out the basics gather information arm yourself with the right questions to ask and know when to stop and be present.

Again what do I know I haven’t had an “event” yet. I just know my life’s fundamentally changed in just over two months. From happy fit surfing and running to popping pills and feeling shit. BUT big but I don’t intend for this to be me forever. And I’m sure you can be the same. You probably need help, i do too. But I’m sure it gets easier. The long timers on here have all said it gets easier and I believe them.

I’m rambling. I sympathise fully, I’m also young and it sucks. I also hope/believe we humans can get over anything we put our minds to.

Dougal77 profile image
Dougal77 in reply to Dadtoalad23


Thanks for this mate.

I am really struggling to put into words what’s going on in my head. A year ago I wouldn’t give a twinge or a bit of pain a second thought.

Chappychap profile image

"One of the biggest benefits is getting to work out (and put your heart under some strain) knowing there are experts on hand to advise and react if anything goes wrong.Everyone has to learn to trust their own body again after a heart attack - it's kind of like the biggest betrayal ever when your own heart "lets you down". And one of the best possible ways to do that is to progressively put it through its paces to prove to yourself that it still works."

There's loads of great advice in Thatwasunexpected's excellent reply, but this part really resonated with me. It's sometimes called "lived experience", the gritty reality of actually doing stuff and knowing, I mean really knowing, that the sky didn't fall down.

The other thing that worked for me was immersing myself in the statistics. I'm reasonably good with numbers, and my sister and brother-in-law are both actuaries, so as well as all the published data on risks and mortality I also had access to several proprietary mortality tables that insurance companies use to compute cardiac risks and premiums.

What came out of that exercise with blinding clarity is this, if we hammer our risk factors back into shape then most of us can have a risk profile that's pretty similar to the average person of our age and gender.

In other words, sort out the critical risk factors and we're no longer walking around with a target on our backs; the odds of another heart attack or stroke within the next ten years becomes very manageable, indeed pretty similar to the general population.

This type of solid data meant I could focus my anxiety where it would really do some good. Write a check list of all the things that needed to be done (Cardio Rehab was great for this), from diligently taking medication to all the relevant life style changes, and then knuckle down and tick them off one by one.

A combination of those two things, practical experience of successfully pushing my heart to the fairly aggressive maximum rates recommended by the NHS, and having a decent collection of ticks on my cardio check list, means I can ignore any dark thoughts that may come knocking, and focus instead on living this amazing life that our wonderful doctors and nurses have gifted us.

Good luck!

Sodp profile image
Sodp in reply to Chappychap

That was a great response ChappychapI am 44 quite fit and sign but during regular check up I had 70% blockage on 3 arteries and stent in 4 places Sept this year. Mostly I am fine attended my rehab.. tweaked my lifestyle it wasn't hard as I never smoked and hardly drink. I was eating moderately and had active life. I now exercise more and eat even healthier cut off my sugar and salt intake reduced. Hoping that I do not have to revisit emergency again. At times still struggling with anxiety and feel pain all over my body. Even small pain freaks me out soon after will jump to check my heart rate, blood pressure and Fitbit ecg that helps but I do not know when it will completely goes away and I can live normal. Since discharge I haven't done any stree or echo test. Before procedure ef was 40% , my cardiologist says first check will be next September. That makes me little vunurable as I do not know if things has improved or not. I had no symptoms prior so it is hard to say . Hopefully knowing that will help me one day. @dougal77 stay positive I guess it's normal to feel that way. This forum is a great help without this would have been back to emergency many times.

Chappychap that static is quite assuring..hearing that gives me some hope

PeteSand profile image


I think everyone who has had an attack suffers in some way with anxiety it’s understandable when the most important part of you being alive has just failed in some way

I had a massive attack last January, they say I was very Lucky and that the complete left hand side of my heart failed , one stent six days in hospital, sent home , no follow up or rehab at all and still trying to get answers

I have had two phone consultations one echocardiogram and that is it , now told I need a defibrillator fitted and have agreed to have it done, they say it is only a preventive measure because my heart is now 30% less efficient

After 3 attempts now have a consultant looking after me so hopeful of some help at last

However the anxiety never stops , not being able to sleep due to worry , waking in the night , worry about every single pain , if you say anything to people they look at you enough to say don’t worry about it

Easy to say and hard to do , I do understand exactly how you feel and you have my sympathy

jayshreepower profile image

You can test your heart condition by 2 D echo test. Doctor can check, if heart is functioning ok, then not to worry so much. I hv undergone quadruplicate, bypass surgery in Feb,2021. Due to nerves damage, I am having heaviness in chest & some pain constantly. After 2D echo,surgeon told things are ok. I am not worried now.

Dougal77 profile image
Dougal77 in reply to jayshreepower

Thank you

Petosmum profile image

Hiya,I am almost 3 years post heart attack (13th Jan). I had tenderness in my chest for quite a while afterwards which I put down to them clearing my 100% blocked artery and putting a stent in. Even now, putting my seat belt on sometimes gives me a bit of gyp and (TMI?) I can no longer wear underwired bras. I think that is relatively normal at least, when I mentioned it to my cardiac nurse, she wasn't fussed.

I found that cardiac rehab definitely helped change my mindset and helped me to cope with the random aches and pains I occasionally had. I would speak to your GP about getting a rehab referral, I had to wait 6 months for mine to start due to the pandemic so it's not something that can only be done straight after your HA, good luck.

Nayan9 profile image

HI Dougal77,

I can understand how you are feeling. I had 4 stents fitted 3 years back at a similar age (43 yrs to be precise). Like you I was absolutely unsure about any aches in the heart, with 3 A&E calls during the following 6 months which were luckily false alarms.

Now after 3 years, I have got back into a routine of exercising regularly again for 40 mins. albeit not at the same level as I used to exercise before. As most have mentioned below, Cardiac Rehab helped me a lot in terms of confidence to get on with exercising and getting back to normal, My local GP was very helpful in terms of medical advice to get confident about the aches and pains and I also got a 2d echo done to understand better how my heart was doing (it was performing at a capacity lesser than normal due to the damage) i.e. it is performaing within the acceptable parameters.

Hope this helps.

Dougal77 profile image
Dougal77 in reply to Nayan9


Thank you for your response, I am definitely going to look at doing cardio rehabilitation.

FindingCaradoc profile image

Hi - there's lots of good advice in the replies you have already had, the only thing I would add is to put your anxiety into context with how you are generally with worrying about things and in particular your health - i.e. whether you are prone to it or not - or if this is a completely new experience brought on by your heart attack. There can be positive and negative points to take out of this which may help you manage your situation. So, from my own experience, I have always been a bit of a worrier and prone to stress about things, often unnecessarily, but when I hit middle age I had more than one experience where I became convinced that I had some serious health condition or other AND started getting symptoms that would (in my mind) point to or confirm this. Or, as it turned out, I had some physical symptoms already that got worse when I started worrying about them to the point where it became self fulfilling. The point I am making is that I learnt from personal (bitter) experience that stress and anxiety really can bring on physical symptoms (I was of course told this at the time but didn't necessarily believe it). That is not to say of course that symptoms should be ignored, but rather to trust the medical professionals to know more than Dr Google and when to get diagnostic tests done. And then if those tests show that there is nothing wrong to believe them and try to relax. Physical exercise has always worked for me and I have also had some professional mental health help on and off over the years.

Fast forward twenty years and I had an actual/real health scare - NSTEMI (so relatively mild heart attack) in April 2022 (followed by an Angiogram and stents) which set off a week later persistent atrial fibrillation (AF). I did already have AF but it was very intermittent and well controlled. Since then I have had a catheter ablation for the AF.

After the heart attack I had lots of spells of generally relatively mild chest pain/discomfort. Initially I was told it was just things settling down. After three weeks I ended up in A&E. Since then I have been close to going to A&E again at least twice and have seen or spoken to my (excellent) GP a number of times (here is an example of where having a good GP who knows your medical history is so helpful and I am lucky with this). I also spoke to more than one EP/Cardiologist as part of follow up checks/treatment. The bottom line is that my chest pain/discomfort symptoms were not of concern to them, but it was also key for me knowing what I do about what stress and anxiety can do to you, that I was able to gradually become less concerned to the point where I no longer have these symptoms, or if I do occasionally I take a few deep breaths and carry on. I also remind myself that the (relatively mild) pain/discomfort I had from my actual heart attack was different and a part of me knew that.

Andy_roo profile image

Yes and yes. Was 48 when I had a heart attack and 2 stents.

You will go through the emotional rollercoaster, medication reviews etc.

But rest assured, you're more likely better off now than you were prior. Your condition is being dealt with medication and the stents. And you will be closely monitor now.

You will have the odd twitch and niggle, but you're also going to hyper focus on and sensation in the chest now.

Please try and relax the anxiety your feeling will itself potentially cause more harm. So do yourself a favour and chill out.

Dougal77 profile image
Dougal77 in reply to Andy_roo

Thank you, your message has slightly reassured me.

wischo profile image

Yes anxiety is almost guaranteed after a heart event although as you get fitter and time goes by the anxiety should disappear or at least become managable. Wishing you a very happy new year and many more to follow.

Qualipop profile image

Absolutely perfectly normal. I think everyone who has suddenly faced their own mortality must feel it. The first thing I did was to get a copy of my discharge letter and an appointment with my GP to translate it and explain everything. I Immediately felt better for knowing just what had happened and why. I agree with an earlier post that rehab is by far the best way to build your confidence. I would contact them and ask if you can go back on the programme. Even slight exercise with someone qualified in attendance can do wonders for your confidence. Also ask your GP how to get CBT. I've now been fine for 4 years but still get bouts of anxiety when something new happens. My GP is very good at arranging check ups like blood tests or an echo scan to reassure me.

Hrty profile image

Anxiety is quite normal. For me it's the hardest part of the recovery process. Every tweak and twinge has been amplified resulting in increased anxiety and, somewhat inevitably, worsening "symptoms". I'm trying to focus on the fact that every test has been positive and that the outlook looks good. It will take time to learn to trust my body again. Take care.

Dougal77 profile image
Dougal77 in reply to Hrty


How long has it been for you?

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