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What would cause heart cramps in a 15 year old? 

I sometimes feel like I have heart cramps. I am only 15 so I don't have much of a history besides that I used to have high cholesterol. About once a week I will randomly get a weird feeling in my chest... the best I can describe it is a heart cramp? I'm pretty sure it's nothing to do with my muscles. These will normally last for about 5-10 minutes and it's not excruciatingly painful, but I can feel it when it happens. My family also has a history of cancer and heart issues, I have had one family member who has died from cancer (pancreatic cancer) and one family member who has had multiple heart attacks. Both are grandparents though. Any idea what this could be? 

submitted by Hannah from Florida on 12/23/2012


Deborah Meyers, MDby Texas Heart Institute cardiologist, Deborah E. Meyers, MD  

Dear Hannah, First of all it is great that you are taking an interest in your health at 15 years of age. Your question is about a funny cramping sensation that you get in your heart about once a week. Clearly it worries you enough to write us. You did not mention what you are doing when the pain starts, how long it lasts, or what makes it better. These are all important details for your doctor to know. You also mentioned that  you "used to have high cholesterol"- does that mean you are now on medication to control this? Sometimes medicines in the family called "statins" can cause some muscle symptoms so any medications that you take could be important as well. It is also important to know if you have other risks for heart disease like being overweight, having diabetes or smoking. 

To reassure you just a bit- the nerve endings inside your body are not as sensitive or specific as the nerves on your skin. For example, if I touched you with a pencil you would immediately know what I was touching you with, where I was touching you and if I were touching you with the point end or the eraser end of the pencil! The inside of your body is not wired like that- you are not supposed to be consciously aware every time your stomach releases digestive juices or when your heart speeds up or slows down- so sometimes sensations from inside of your body can be confusing. Sometimes indigestion can be confused with heart pain for example. 

With your parents' consent and assistance, I suggest that you start with your family doctor and discuss your concerns and your symptoms. This is a great place to start especially if you are worried.  He or she can take a complete medical history, and do some simple non invasive tests if there is any concern at all that this pain represents angina or heart pain.  He or she can also discuss how your family history can impact you. But remember you are only ¼ genetically similar to your grandparents!!! 

Thank you for a great question. Keep healthy.   

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Updated January 2013
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