by Carolyn Thomas
I have an ever-so-slightly jaded view of American health care since spending time at Mayo Clinic. While there, I met an alarming number of heart attack survivors from across the U.S. - yes, even those who thought they had good health insurance coverage - who had lost their homes, their businesses, and faced collection agencies at the door or even imminent bankruptcy because they’d had a cardiac event that had left them with crushing medical debt.
Last month in Toronto, the 5th semi-annual Munk Debate featured the Great Health Care Debate resolution: “I would rather get sick in the United States than in Canada.” Here are some of the pros and cons raised by each side during this debate:
I would rather get sick in the U.S. because:
- The U.S. spends 87% more per person than Canada on health care ($7,290/patient vs. $3,895).
- 54% of American men had PSA tests for prostate cancer. Only 16% of Canadian men did.
- There are 34 CT scanners per million citizens in the U.S. In Canada, only 12.
- There are 27 MRI machines per million citizens in the U.S. compared to just six in Canada.
- Canadians wait twice as long as Americans for elective surgery like hip replacements.
- The U.S. is responsible for the vast majority of health care innovations, both medically and technologically. They are the world’s undisputed leaders in biomedical research and diagnostic treatment.
But on the other hand, here’s why it’s better to get sick in Canada: Continue reading
by Carolyn Thomas ♥ @HeartSisters
During my first evening at our “Heart to Heart” support group, the man sitting next to me leaned over and asked me: “What are you in for?”
I told him that I’d had what doctors call the “widowmaker” heart attack two weeks earlier, and that I now had a stainless steel stent implanted in a major coronary artery that had been 99% blocked. He interrupted me with a cheery:
“Me too! But I have THREE stents!”
As he went on and on in exquisite detail about his cardiac event, I felt like my own was suddenly pretty puny by comparison. Three stents? How could I possibly compete with that? My previously-fascinating heart attack story now seemed hardly even worth mentioning, really.
I came to observe during the following weeks and months that heart patients, consciously or not, seem to slot themselves arbitrarily into what I call the unspoken Hierarchy of Heart Disease. Continue reading
by Carolyn Thomas
Prepare to scratch your head in confusion as we consider the subject of geography for a moment.
In the U.K., the Brits’ high daily consumption of saturated and trans fats – chief suspects among risk factors for heart disease - is actually topped by those living in Germany, Belgium and France. Yet these three salami-eating countries boast far fewer heart disease deaths than the U.K., according to the British Heart Foundation.
Even more confusing are the people of France. Although the French smoke more, eat more fat, and consume only slightly more fruit and vegetables than the British do, the French have the lowest heart death rate in the European Union – only about one-quarter of the British rate. This is the notorious “French Paradox“, which epidemiologists have puzzled over for decades. Although French hearts appear to be the healthiest and best preserved in Europe, they are certainly among the worst on the risk factors of diet and smoking.
The Spaniards, Finns, Italians, and Portuguese all eat less harmful fat and consume more fruit and vegetables than the French – yet die in greater numbers from heart disease.
How can this be? Continue reading
As regular readers already know, I like to include the work of cardiac psychologist Dr. Wayne Sotile on this site, mostly because what he writes about the psychological challenge of heart disease and recovery rings so true for me since my own heart attack.
His 1992 book Heart Illness and Intimacy: How Caring Relationships Aid Recovery looks at the profound impact that the stresses of heart disease can have on patients, spouses and children.
The interesting chapter called The Personality Factor: Can We Change? explores how our personalities and coping patterns can often determine how we’ll react to a life-changing cardiac event.
Based on the 1987 pioneering work of Stewart and Joines on Transactional Analysis, Sotile outlines in this chapter the six basic coping patterns that seem to drive our perceptions, our behavioural choices, and our corresponding emotional reactions to both everyday life and to a chronic and progressive diagnosis like heart disease. He explains:
“These six personality drivers become especially influential in shaping our reactions during stressful times like a serious illness.”
The six personality coping patterns are: Continue reading
by Carolyn Thomas ♥ @HeartSisters
At the Canadian Stroke Congress in Quebec City recently, researchers presented a review of 42 published studies that had looked at the effects of caregiving on adult children who take care of parents who have survived a stroke. More than half of the studies looked at daughters who served as caregivers.
Although this review focused on the care of parents who were stroke survivors, no woman I know with ailing parents of any diagnosis would be surprised at the review’s findings: that adult daughters suffer more than adult sons from poor relationships with aging parents who need their care. Review author Marina Bastawrous of the University of Toronto explained:
“Adult daughters place greater emphasis on their relationships with their parents, and when those relationships go awry, it takes a worse toll on the adult daughters than the adult sons. Overall, the studies suggest that daughters suffer more than sons when they don’t get along with their ailing and elderly parents. The relationships rupture when there is less cooperation, less communication and more conflict. “ Continue reading