Chest pain while running uphill

21 Sep

Of Shoes & Legs

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

 Part 3 of a 3-part series about pain

My initial heart attack symptoms struck me right out of the blue.  I was out for a brisk walk early one beautiful Monday morning around 6 a.m. when suddenly, I experienced a pain smack in the centre of my chest. It felt like a cross between crushing heaviness and a severe burning sensation that gradually extended right up my chest into my lower throat. My left arm began to hurt. I also felt like I was going to vomit, and I started sweating far more profusely than my walking pace warranted.

But a strange realization about my heart attack symptoms hit me much later, long after I was hospitalized for what doctors still call the “widowmaker” heart attack 

This was not the first time in my life I’d felt the chest pain symptoms I experienced on that spring morning.
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Brain freeze, heart disease and pain self-management

14 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Part 2 of a 3-part series about pain

Consider the familiar pain we call brain freeze.

That’s the universal experience of feeling a sharp pain in the forehead right between your eyes after you eat or drink something that’s icy cold. But when you feel this pain, it simply means that your hypersensitive nervous system is making a mistake.

There’s nothing dangerous actually happening to your forehead. Brain freeze pain does not mean that you have an injury – no matter where or how the pain hits you. What it does mean is that when the soft palate at the back of the roof of your mouth detects something really, really cold in there, it sends messages to your brain. But your brain can only hint at the general vicinity of where these signals originate from. So even though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with your forehead, that’s where you’ll feel brain freeze pain.

That’s one of the factoids I learned about pain at the Regional Pain Clinic I’ve been visiting regularly for a number of years since being diagnosed with the debilitating symptoms of Coronary Microvascular Disease.
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It’s Invisible Illness Awareness Week!

9 Sep

Dearest heart sisters,

If you live with an invisible illness (as almost all heart patients do), this is your week, no matter what your diagnosis.  I encourage you to visit the Invisible Illness Week site, all about those of us living with serious health conditions that nobody else can see. It’s an annual educational campaign about how often illness is utterly invisible to others, how to be sensitive to those living with these challenges, and how to learn from their unique experiences.
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The freakish nature of cardiac pain

7 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Part 1 of a 3-part series about pain

I was thinking about the freakish nature of pain the other day. I think about pain quite a bit, actually, given the frequency with which I now experience the ongoing symptoms of Coronary Microvascular Disease.

But six years ago, when the first alarming warning signs of a heart attack struck out of the blue while I was out for a pre-breakfast walk, the reality was not at all what I would have ever imagined a heart attack to feel like.

And because I was clueless, I believed the Emergency Department physician who misdiagnosed me with acid reflux and sent me home that same morning. Continue reading

The hospital discharge race: is sooner always better?

31 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

wheelchairThey say that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t there. I do remember this about 1966, however:  I spent my birthday that year in a hospital bed, where I’d been a patient for a full month recuperating from a ruptured appendix and a nasty case of peritonitis.  Back then during the dawn of civilization, it was common for patients to spend far longer in hospital than we ever would now. For example:
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Heart scans: the triumph of profit over science

24 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

This kind of ad is part of a growing marketing strategy to cash in on your fears. They’re run by for-profit hospitals, medical centres, and sometimes just non-professional entrepreneurs who park their big mobile body imaging vans in church parking lots.

For example, an ad from the Heart Hospital of Austin in Texas reads:

“Find a new way to tell Dad you love him! Show your love with a HeartSaver CT Scan!”

The website Track Your Plaque warns:

“The old tests for heart disease were wrong – dead wrong. Heart scans are the most important health test you can get!”

A radio ad for the Princeton Longevity Center in Princeton, New Jersey asks:

“Does your annual physical use the latest technology to prevent heart disease before it strikes?”

And this center’s website further promises that its full-day exams – which include heart scans and usually are not covered by health insurance plans – can detect the “silent killers that are often missed in a typical physical exam or routine blood tests.”

Yet most major health agencies (like the American Heart Association, the American College of Radiology, the American Cancer Society) do not recommend routine use of heart scans in low-risk people without heart-related symptoms.  Continue reading

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