How to Know the Difference Between a Heart Attack and a Gallstone Attack

A visit to a new doctor or the annual update to your health chart brings with it page upon page of health questions. You know the routine, the receptionist hands you a stack of paperwork neatly attached to a clipboard. You take a seat in the waiting room as you happily bypass boxes that need no confirmation and find yourself checking more boxes as the years pass by.

I recall the days of breezing through those questions – heart condition, nope – auto-immune disease, nope – cancer, nope. Those days are something in the past as I now check the “yes” box to confirm all three health conditions are alive and evident inside my aging body.

There is no time to gripe about such health misfortunes as whining about it will not do me or my loved ones any good.

Looking back, I naively did not realize how grateful I should have been regarding my good health. Time passed and age and traumas presented themselves over the years as serious health issues reared their ugly heads.

I think most of us are in fine tune with our bodies. We know when an uninvited guest bestows a unique irritant inside us that we have not yet experienced.

Do we immediately call our doctor or do we shake it off as a harmless intruder of unimportance? 

“I don’t have time to go to the doctor.” “It’s probably just gas.”

I think some of us have said this on at least one occasion and I was one of those people until my dad died suddenly and left this world without us ever knowing what happened. The only time he would call his doctor is when he had tennis elbow and couldn’t play tennis. True story.

Did he feel strange palpitations in his heart and ignore them? My family will never know…even after an autopsy and toxicology reports were performed.

It was May of 2021 and I was due to speak on a scheduled radio show for the release of my new book.

Out of nowhere sharp pains struck the upper portion of my chest that brought me to my knees. I knew I suffered from a rare heart disease as my dad’s coroner advised me to seek the professional opinion of a cardiologist. Being further studies were still being done, I immediately called my doctor and more precise tests were done to narrow down the mysterious culprit.

Months had passed when this pain grew in size and the pain shifted to my upper right abdomen and back. Now this was an intense pain and for me, more painful than childbirth. At least with childbirth, I was blessed with two babies. Not so much here.

Again, more testing as my doctor was scratching his head – until I noticed and mentioned something new – the pain now came after I ate.

A cat-scan was done, which was intended to reveal abnormalities in my chest, but the medical report verified a condition foreign to our expectations – several gallstones in the upper abdomen. Hmmmm….this is new.

An ultrasound was done, which revealed clusters of gallstones throughout my abdomen. I was loaded with gallstones.

Most people suffering from a gallbladder attack often complain about nausea, gas, sweating with a sharp pain that radiates to the upper back and behind the breastbone, similar to a heart attack. I experienced all of those symptoms, including shortness of breath and dizziness.

Most women (symptoms for men and women can be different) feel neck, shoulder, jaw upper back or upper abdomen discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, pain in one arm or both and dizziness.

For me, there was not much difference when referring to the symptoms of a heart attack and a gallbladder attack. I have experienced both. Make the call when you feel something is not right. You could save your life. 

Recently my gallbladder was removed and I learned the seriousness of leaving the gallstone situation untreated.

If left untreated a gallstone can cause blockage in the pancreatic duct, which can lead to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Pancreatitis causes intense, constant abdominal pain; usually requiring hospitalization. Also – if left untreated, people suffering with a history of gallstones have a proven increased risk of gallbladder cancer.

Please don’t assume and overlook the signs. You may have heard the old saying, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

It is ironic that throughout both of my pregnancies with my son and daughter, I smothered my belly with Vitamin E and cocoa butter. Even though I knew I was blessed with both of my babies, vanity reigned as I refused to have stretch marks.

Now when I look down at my belly and see the railroad track scars from my cancer surgery and the scars from my gallbladder removal, I am grateful. I see a thankful reminder. I see a beautiful reminder that I am alive. It could always be worse.

We may not be able to predict how long our lives will be on this earth. Pay attention to your aches and pains. There may be no reason to worry, but what if you are wrong.

You are worth it.

Lori Armstrong

Lori began her career in the legal field, leaving that position to pursue full-time writing endeavors. Being a criminal court reporter for the Record-Bee, she balances the chaos in her brain by writing children's books and reflective pieces. When time allows, she publishes books for Amazon.

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