Are you a heart attack waiting to happen?

29 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I was asked last year by a large U.S. publisher to review a new book written by a woman who had recently become a heart patient. I enjoyed reading the first chapter or two until I came to the New York author’s dramatic story of the actual cardiac event itself. The part that left me gobsmacked was not the event, but her abject shock and disbelief that she (of all people!) could be experiencing a heart attack at all.  The pervasive “Why me? Why me?” focus in this chapter clearly ignored a reality that the author had somehow chosen to gloss over: she’d been a heavy smoker for several decades.

Don’t get me wrong. Any cardiac event is indeed a traumatic occurrence no matter who and when it strikes. Sometimes, we truly have no hint about the cause of said event. And my immediate gut reaction was not meant to mock this author, or minimize her experience (which was awful). 

But I felt honestly surprised that she was surprised. Here was an intelligent, educated woman who’d been actively and relentlessly engaged year after year after year in one of the most well-known and downright dangerous risk factors for cardiovascular disease out there - yet she’s surprised?

Cigarette smoking is considered the most important preventable cause of premature death in North America. So how is it even possible she would not know this? How is it possible that she would have no clue that her heavy smoking was damaging her heart? Continue reading

When you have a family history of heart disease

22 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

A young 30-something in one of my women’s heart health presentation audiences asked an intriguing question while we were discussing cardiac risk factors.  She was especially  worried about her own personal risk for developing heart disease one day because of her family history.  Her mother had died several years earlier from a heart attack while only in her 40s.  But then this young woman added a few additional facts about her Mum.  For example, her mother had also:

  • weighed over 300 pounds
  • rarely if ever engaged in physical exercise
  • lived with poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes
  • been a heavy smoker for over two decades

This young woman, however, shared none of those risk factors.  So what do you think? Should she be concerned about this family history of heart disease after all?    Continue reading

Yet another cardiac risk calculator? My response in the British Medical Journal

17 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I was contacted by Juliet Dobson at the British Medical Journal recently, who asked me for a heart patient’s perspective on a new cardiovascular risk calculator.  It’s been launched by the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), and claims that it can tell you your real heart age. Here’s what I wrote . . .   Continue reading

Post-Traumatic Growth: how a crisis makes life better – or NOT

15 Mar
Norwegian researchers asked this question to heart attack survivors (all of them females, between three months to five years after their first heart attack):
“All in all, was there anything positive about experiencing a myocardial infarction?”
Well, here’s what they found. About 65% of the women studied reported positive benefits of their MI experience. (1)  
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Full disclosure: I’ve always felt a bit squirmy when patients facing a life-altering medical crisis cheerfully declare that this diagnosis is not only NOT dreadful, but it’s actually quite fabulous! But having said that, let’s look at this positivity phenomenon.

Continue reading

Do we need to change the name of cardiac rehab?

8 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Once discharged from hospital following my heart attack, I was gobsmacked by how physically frail I felt. Simply taking a shower meant a 20-minute lie down to recover. Just walking to the corner with my son, Ben, required me to clutch his arm for support. But it wasn’t only this new weakness that alarmed me. As a former distance runner, I felt suddenly afraid of any exertion that might bring on the horrific heart attack symptoms I’d so recently endured. That’s where cardiac rehabilitation (a 2-4 month supervised exercise and education program for heart patients) literally saved me. Continue reading

Patient bloggers at health conferences: ‘real’ journalists?

1 Mar
Like some of my most deliciously niggling inspirations these days, this one started on Twitter. Patient advocate, speaker and a Stanford University Medicine X ePatient Scholar Britt Johnson (who blogs at The Hurt Blogger) tweeted this:
Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 7.54.00 AM
To which patient advocate, speaker and also a Stanford University Medicine X ePatient Scholar Carly Medosch (who blogs at Chronic Carly) responded:
 
Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 6.45.09 PM
 
It was Carly’s observation that caused one of my eyebrows to flick skyward, unbidden.

Continue reading

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