“Is my bra too tight?” – a poem for heart patients

20 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Numbness in the lip. Persistent cough. Pain between shoulder blades. Buzzing elbows. I thought I’d heard just about every possible vague or unusual heart disease symptom in women so far, but there’s one that I had never heard about until just recently.  And since then, women seem to be coming out of the woodwork to add that they too have experienced this peculiar cardiac symptom.  

For example, one of my Mayo heart sisters (age 53, survivor of five – count ’em, FIVE heart attacks) recently wrote:

“After my second heart attack when a cardiologist asked if I had any symptoms leading up to my MI (myocardial infarction), I named several –  including telling him how one time I thought my bra was so tight that I unhooked it while driving home from work.

“He just stared at me and said nothing, and of course nothing was noted about the bra symptoms in my medical records from his exam.

“I think ‘bra feels too tight’ should be included in lists of heart attack symptoms.”

Dr. Mary Ann McLaughlin, Medical Director of the Cardiac Health Program at Mount Sinai Medical Center describes this as “feeling band-like pressure as if your bra is too tight.”

Another heart patient from New Zealand (age 48, diagnosed with coronary artery spasms) also wrote:

“My bra was my very first symptom over 1 1/2 years ago. I would often unhook my bra when I got in the car and before I got out to go anywhere I would hook it back up again. I would sometimes go into the loo and take off my bra in the middle of a work session!”

And here’s another report from Maine (age 55, heart attack in July 2011):

“One of the earlier symptoms of my heart attack was the tenderness I would feel around my ribs, especially along the sides when wearing a bra. I couldn’t wait to get home from work, rip that puppy holder off and throw on a T-shirt! Felt exactly like suffocating.”

But best of all, consider this ode to too-tight bras from Annette in Pennsylvania (age 42, Coronary Microvascular Disease) – republished here with her kind permission:

Is My Bra Too Tight?

“I’m out and about
The sky is blue
I feel the breeze at my skirt
As I converse with you

Tightness and squeezing
Making me squirm
Is my bra now too tight?
Hard to discern

As if something changed
Feels harder and heavy
Like plated armor
Unbending and weighty

It’s nice to be here
Social and engaging
I can’t concentrate
Focus on all this encaging

I want it all gone
Tightness of any sort
Rip off the confines
And get back to my torte

Sneakily pinch twist
The front enclosure
Ahhh, release the elastic
Pressure a bit better

Pop a nitro and smile
Hoping this is the trick
Back to my torte
You flash a smile, but quick

No long escape
From this heart constriction
You knowingly nod
Not a hint of friction

It’s there . . . the squeezing
Managing still
The ache and the pain
An unpleasant frill

I sigh . . .  you pay
Then fetch the car
Back to bra-less, feet up
Glad home is not far!”

♥    ♥    ♥

See Annette’s guest post called “School’s In Every Day for Heart Patients.

UPDATE: July 30, 2014: Thanks to my Toastmasters friend Patti L.L. for her tip that wearing an ill-fitting bra may also cause chest pains that mimic heart attack symptoms even when there are no cardiac issues at all. Too-tight, underwired or sports bras can add stress on bones and muscles by pressing on the rib cage, which in turn puts pressure on the diaphragm. Muscles that run from the upper part of the cervical spine and attach to the upper ribs can also be restricted by wearing tight bras. Sports bras should not be worn all day long for this reason.


Q:  Have you experienced a ‘bra too tight’ feeling that did turn out to be a cardiac symptom?

See also:


 ♥  This post was republished by the Texas Heart Institute Women’s Health & Vascular Health newsletter, under Hot Topics On Women’s Heart Health. It also ranked #9 on the Top 10 Most-Read Heart Sisters Posts list for 2014.



29 Responses to ““Is my bra too tight?” – a poem for heart patients”

  1. Denise September 13, 2018 at 5:07 am #

    I was on vacation in June 2016 and getting ready to leave my hotel room. Quite suddenly, my bra felt very uncomfortable – way too tight! I was headed to lunch at a local restaurant. After ordering my meal, I suddenly began to sweat, had pain in my jaw, was nauseous and had pain shooting horizontally across the top of my chest!

    My husband took me to the local emergency room. All tests were negative, except one showed my heart beating “not as vigorously as it should” in one area. I was released, being told that I was probably ok.

    After arriving home a few days later, the same symptoms started again. Once again, I went to the ER, had the full series of tests done (all negative) and was told that I was ok and that I should see a Cardiologist. The next day I had an appointment with a cardiologist, who told me that because I had no heart disease risks and because I was very healthy and walking 4 miles per day, I was probably ok.

    The next day the symptoms began again, even worse than before! I went to the ER AGAIN! The same cardiologist that I had seen the day before told me that he would have a heart catheterization done just to prove that the problem wasn’t my heart. A heart catheterization was done the next day — and oops! My LAD (left anterior descending) artery was 80-90% blocked! I had to go to an ER 3 times before I could get the help that I needed!


    And, I still am very uncomfortable wearing a bra and don’t wear one unless absolutely necessary!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas September 13, 2018 at 5:58 am #

      Hi Denise – three trips to the ER before a correct diagnosis? That’s awful!!! Sadly, as you know, your story is not uncommon in women.

      Good for you for being persistent in returning to seek help. Too many women (like me for example) are too embarrassed to keep going back to the ER for fear we’ll just be sent home again after making a fuss over “nothing”.

      You did the right thing, and our advice is 100% correct!


  2. Sarah Livingston Schlicht June 28, 2017 at 11:42 am #

    I have SVT and it seems that sometimes it is triggered by a bra. Am I crazy?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas June 28, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

      Hi Sarah – I’m not a psychiatrist but I am betting that you are not, in fact, crazy. I can’t say for sure if your SVT* is being triggered by a bra, but if you are indeed noticing a correlation between wearing a bra and resulting symptoms, you’re doing an “n=1” experiment of your own – specially if you notice that it’s only one kind of bra, or one specific bra, that seems to impact you. On the other hand, if sometimes wearing a bra causes no increase in symptoms yet other times it does, that may not be a study that’s reliable in coming to a conclusion!

      * SVT (Supraventricular Tachycardia) is an occasional rapid heart rate (150-250 beats per minute). For other translations of complex cardiology terms, visit my patient-friendly, jargon-free Heart Sisters glossary.


  3. Barbara February 11, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

    I experience the same thing. Constriction all day and relief one hook at the time on the way home. There’s got to be a better way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas February 12, 2017 at 4:48 am #

      Hello Barbara – “relief one hook at a time on the way home” says it all! Hang in there…


  4. Kathy July 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Hello! I tried to find the poem. I so need a laugh! I am 55. Had a valve replaced a couple of months ago. My best friend (the same age, who died a month later) had resorted to the athletic types, with the little modesty inserts although she pulled those out because they shift and if you’re not paying attention your girls will be pointing in opposite directions. I find these garments too hot and extremely unflattering. Not being able to dress comfortably really bugs me! If I could just get dressed I know I’d feel much better. And I just don’t feel dressed unless I’ve got all my undies on! Love the scarf idea but I live in the desert and it’s very hot and, as lovely as scarves are, they offer no support. It’s strange, but true, I believe a decent bra would help me get my life back!

    I just want my life back…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas July 6, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

      Hi Kathy and thanks so much for sharing your perspective.You’ve had quite the past couple of months, with both your surgery and the death of a dear friend. My condolences to you on such a great loss. You are still in very early days (relatively speaking) since your valve replacement and I’m hoping that being able to dress comfortably (including all your undies) will come very soon. It may not get you your old life back, but it will be a big step towards it!


      • Kathy July 8, 2013 at 7:23 am #

        Oh my goodness! Thank you, so much, for your reply! How I wish I knew someone like you! It would be awesome to have someone to talk to. Just your understanding of the depth of my grief, made me feel so much better!
        I haven’t figured out how to get to the posts (only the replies), but I will, and I’m sure they’ll help. There’s a list of issues after this type of surgery. Knowing others have the same issues is, in a very strange way, comforting. I am very sorry for their ailments, but relieved to know I am not alone in the way that I feel. Thank you… This is providing the energy I needed to not feel that I was right on my friend’s heals! Thank you for stepping out there, and for pulling others out. I’m sure you’re saving lives!


        • Carolyn Thomas July 8, 2013 at 8:51 am #

          Hi Kathy – are you reading this on your phone? I’ve had a couple readers lately having trouble reading posts via their mobile devices. If so, try checking on my site via a computer. Thanks so much – hang in there!


          • Kathy July 8, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

            Yes, I am. I’ll try that, thanks!


  5. ahqaf12 September 23, 2012 at 3:36 am #

    Hi Carolyn,
    Really it’s so funny reading such a poem.
    I like those lines very much.Thanks.
    “I want it all gone
    Tightness of any sort
    Rip off the confines
    And get back to my torte”


    • Carolyn Thomas September 23, 2012 at 6:18 am #

      I know – Annette is very funny!


  6. MentalMakeovers September 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    It is NOT my intention to devalue heart disease but Annette’s poem is seriously hilarious or hilariously serious.

    (Interesting that we women are masters of deception, both with breast augmentation and our own life threatening symptoms)

    Excellent and important post, Carolyn, thank you always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas September 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Judy/Judith – “masters of deception” (or is that “mistresses” of deception?!) Sounds like that could be a blog topic all to itself someday.


  7. Stephanie September 20, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    OMG! Once again, I thought I was the only one with this feeling. I’ve had an extremely hard time wearing a bra ever since my heart attack. The pressure and anxiety can be unbearable! I usually go braless, or wear a camisole. If I do wear one, it never lasts that long b4 i take it off. Certain friends have suggested i buy nipple covers at $50.00 a pop. Really? I am small framed & chested & do not bear all. Always wondered why showing a lot of cleavage was socially acceptable, but apparently, going braless is shamed. Thanks for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas September 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      Hi Steph – and is there anything better IN LIFE than ripping off one’s bra at the end of the day?!


  8. Rachel Juby September 20, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Wow! I am staying tuned to this one… my bra is killing me!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas September 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

      Me too, Rachel. Ouch. Ouch . . .


    • MyLittleCorner August 18, 2018 at 4:42 am #

      I’m entering this here because I couldn’t find anywhere else to leave a reply to the original blog. I did a search on heart attacks and bras because I thought I might have had one, and it seemed to start with my bra.

      I was driving in May of this year, out in the middle of nowhere, no traffic, no houses around and no idea how to tell anyone where I was, when I felt a pressure across my chest, that seemed to be along the bra line. I remember wondering why my bra felt so tight all of a sudden. I tried adjusting it, pulling it away from my chest, anything to get that pressure off my chest. Then I got a very bad pain in my back, between my shoulder blades, and thought my posture had probably been poor while driving, and tried sitting up straighter to take that pressure off my back.

      Then it hurt on the right side of my neck and jaw and down into my right arm. I just didn’t feel good at all. Called the office and asked the receptionist to look up heart attack symptoms in women. Told her what I was feeling and she said it seemed I was having a lot of the symptoms. But since I was in the middle of nowhere and couldn’t describe where I was at, I decided to keep driving.

      About a half an hour later, I was feeling better. The pressure was gone. I still wasn’t feeling a 100% but it wasn’t that crushing feeling anymore and the pain had eased up in my back. So I went home. I decided to look up heart attacks, women, and bras and saw the link to this blog.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carolyn Thomas August 18, 2018 at 5:51 am #

        Pretty scary experience when you are driving, and out in the middle of nowhere! This happened to you a few months ago – I’m hoping these symptoms are not still happening. If they do come back, seek immediate medical attention.

        Liked by 1 person

        • MyLittleCorner August 18, 2018 at 7:58 am #

          I’m still having the skipped heart beats, but do have an appointment with a cardiologist on Monday. And when I began to suspect it was a heart attack, that’s when it got scary for me, because there was no one around for miles and miles. Luckily, it obviously wasn’t too bad of one, and I was okay, but I’m going to get it checked out.


  9. Mary September 20, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    Counterpoint to the Bra (a reply to Annette, from an MVD friend)

    “When my bra felt like a tourniquet
    I stopped and wondered, “why”?
    Am I fatter or shorter?
    or having bad posture?
    It seemed so constant, I sighed

    “No matter, I shopped and I shopped
    Imagine how many I tried,
    I bought loose and floppy
    The size up and larger
    Until they made no sense, so I stopped

    “So, I’d like you to meet my new friends
    I have a wardrobe of colors of them
    They’re all long and light-y
    My go-to, alrighty?
    On them, I have come to depend

    “Oh, no, I’m not speaking of diapers!
    It’s scarves, the long ones and airy
    It wraps round my neck-icles
    And then wisps down my front
    with both sides covering my chest-icles

    “They save me from bras, I am thankful
    They cover my girls, so delightful
    They’re easy and pretty
    A collection for me
    The bra known as tourniquet, no more!”

    P.S. If I have to wear a bra, I have a quick release front opener and a scarf in my bag!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas September 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

      Oh, Mary!! This is fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing this saviour for our ‘chest-icles’! 🙂


  10. jetgirl September 20, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    Hi Carolyn,

    Nice work by Annette!

    I still have the email that I sent to my oncology surgeon in 2010 when my cardiac symptoms returned in which I told him that I had waited a weekend for the symptoms to go away (it was Easter weekend after all – didn’t want to bother him) and the symptoms were either due to

    a. all in my head and I was imagining things

    b. I’d gained weight but only in my chest as my bras were too tight (so that meant I must have lost some in my butt since the scale said weight was unchanged)

    c. a tumor had returned or some other problem

    It wasn’t until later that I found out that bra too tight was one of the first signs of cardiac problems – several research articles in Circulation.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas September 20, 2012 at 5:23 am #

      Hi JG – can’t find Circulation links – can you help?


      • Jana September 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

        So true! I’m laughing and just shared this link. My “girls” love their freedom too. I’m betting there are many heart sisters with this symptom. Please pay attention, especially if you think your bra is too tight and you don’t even have one on!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Carolyn Thomas September 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

          Good advice, Jana – pay attention!!



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