February is American Heart Month. And chest pain is one of the most troubling symptoms that patients experience, and for good reason – heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. It also seems to be a very common topic of emails I receive at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unfortunately, it can be one of the most challenging symptoms to dissect, let alone over email, and short answers just won’t do.
So I thought it would be a good idea to instead learn more about chest pain and what really goes through a doctor’s mind when patients first present with this potentially alarming symptom. Let’s learn about chest pain via another mystery diagnosis case.
The Chief Complaint
Calvin is a 48-year-old man who came to see me in the clinic with a “chief complaint” of chest pain ("chief complaint" is a medical term used to describe the “main symptom”). I had seen Calvin several times in my clinic before for his high blood pressure. He’s an interesting guy – very humorous and loves to talk to me about his 3 rambunctious children (whom I also take care of) and his job as the CEO of his father’s water filtering company. When the economy took a dive, Calvin started to feel the pressure at work. He’s been putting in long hours. And when he goes to bed, his mind really starts to wander and that’s when he feels the stress and subsequent chest pain.