I'd like to begin with a little background. I've been out of work for more than I'd like, and of course haven't had insurance for quite some time. The only thing I knew about pre-heart attack was a history of Reactive Arthritis, a form of Spondylitis, which appears to be in remission knock on wood. In the years since I last had health insurance I've had plenty of autoimmune type symptoms: arthritis, weird aches and pains, sensitivity to hot and cold, rashes that come and go, muscle cramps/spasms, EXTREME exhaustion, etc. I always thought it was part of the Reactive Arthritis. Then I had a heart attack earlier this year.
After the heart attack I've been lucky enough to get on a local low income insurance plan and decided to see about those symptoms I'd been having for years. Thankfully the day I went to see the in-plan clinic my inflammation levels were high enough to get a referral to a Rheumatologist. He did some tests and diagnosed me with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. A discovery which was, while disconcerting that I have another autoimmune disease, exhilarating because all of the symptoms I'd been suffering from for years suddenly fell into place.
Unfortunately, my primary care physician doesn't agree with the diagnosis and won't let me see an endocrinologist and has sent me to another Rheumatologist for a second opinion. He said that he doesn't treat TSH levels until they get above 9. Mine are currently around 5.5. After digging around about these test results I discovered that aspirin apparently lowers all thyroid hormone measurements, "Single-dose aspirin or salsalate decreased ... various total and free thyroid hormone measurements. One week of aspirin or salsalate decreased total T(4), free T(4) (salsalate only), total T(3), free T(3), and TSH." Needless to say that after the heart attack I'm on a daily dose of aspirin as well as a blood thinner and blood pressure med.
That said, even if there weren't mitigating circumstances regarding the accuracy of my test results, even a 5.5 is high enough to be diagnosed as hypothyroid from what I've read. According to the American Association of Endocrinologists in 2003, "Until November 2002, doctors had relied on a normal TSH level ranging from 0.5 to 5.0 to diagnose and treat patients with a thyroid disorder who tested outside the boundaries of that range. Now AACE encourages doctors to consider treatment for patients who test outside the boundaries of a narrower margin based on a target TSH level of 0.3 to 3.04." So even at the old levels, my TSH is on the high side. If you add into that fact that my levels are lower due to daily aspirin use then I'm quite sure that I'm hypothyroid. Given my history of autoimmune disease, there's really no other explanation for my hypothyroidism than Hashimoto's. Forgive the lengthy treatise, but this has been so frustrating I could spit nails.
Anyways, one of the "symptoms" of Hashimoto's is high LDL. Mine was over 300 when I went to the hospital with the heart attack. Mine was not a mild heart attack, it was a full-blown STEMI. While I didn't pass out I nearly did and I fell down a couple times in an attempt to walk to get help. It was the worst pain I've ever felt and I really don't know how I found the strength to get up and get help. Now I suffer from angina just walking to the mailbox and I'm not even 40.
I've yet to meet a doctor who is willing to confirm that autoimmune issues are related to my heart attack, in fact they consistently say they have no clue why I had one. While I am a bit overweight and I've got the high cholesterol, so does my Mom who is much heavier and in her 60's. It really has been a, "What the hell?!" experience. Every cardiologist I talked to has no idea. I always ask about any autoimmune connection and most clam up about it, a few said it was a possibility in some universe, and an EMT (from when my stent got blocked within two months of the heart attack) said it's absolutely related - go figure.
I'm guessing it was the high LDL, which perhaps can be laid at the feet of Hashimoto's, although I wonder if there's something else about the autoimmune factor that we've yet to understand. High cholesterol runs in my family (in raw totals Mom's was 600, cousin's was 500, I've hovered around 350-400) but I'm not sure if anyone had such high LDL levels specifically. The only person who died of heart disease was my Grandmother but she was in her eighties. I'm the only one who has had major autoimmune issues and a heart attack before 60. It's the only thing that makes any sense to me. I've only started researching this, and I've got so many things to do I haven't delved that deeply but I can't believe that it's an isolated factor.
As to your case, if there's anything I've learned from my experience don't fool around with chest pain - that goes for everyone. I very nearly died and I could have gotten help much sooner - like four days sooner when the pain first started. Because of the whole insurance thing I waited, but I'm sure less damage would have been done if I had gotten help sooner. According to my cardiologist, they can always see the damage from a previous heart attack on an EKG, so maybe that's what your doctor is referring to. Your Dad's story is a bit disconcerting. I dread the idea of having another heart attack, but I kind of feel like I'm doomed to another one. Regardless of my fate, I wish you the very best. I know how difficult it can be living with not only autoimmune but cardiac issues, so my heart (pardon the pun) goes out to you!