A children’s book about living with an open heart surgery scar

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

When Zayna’s infant daughter Sarah was just five months old, the baby underwent open heart surgery to correct a congenital heart defect she’d been born with. “The surgery truly saved her life!” says Zayna. “She went from being tube-fed to becoming a bouncing ball of energy.”

But a few years later, Sarah had an experience with her little friends – one that resulted in a new book for kids who are just like her.    .    .  Continue reading “A children’s book about living with an open heart surgery scar”

Heart disease: decades in the making

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters  

I was surprised to learn after surviving my own heart attack that cardiac events like mine may take 20-30 years to actually show up. In other words, I didn’t have a heart attack because I ate a piece of bacon or had a stressful day at work. I had a heart attack because something – likely decades earlier – had damaged the delicate endothelial cells lining my coronary arteries.          .      .  .    .   Continue reading “Heart disease: decades in the making”

Bereavement eating: does grief cause carb cravings?

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

(originally published here after my mother’s death nine years ago today)

I’ve heard it said that some people experience a loss of appetite during stressful times like a death in the family.  These people are not my relatives. Indeed, in our Ukrainian family tradition, we eat when we’re happy, we eat when we’re upset, and we eat during all possible emotions in between.

Every family gathering surrounding my mother’s death in 2012 was no exception.

For example, the delicious lunch following her funeral service was a true labour of love prepared by the women of my mother’s church, just as the women of churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and neighbourhoods around the world have been doing for mourners since time began.         .               . Continue reading “Bereavement eating: does grief cause carb cravings?”

Women’s heart disease: wrong symptoms, wrong words or wrong diagnostic tools?

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters   

I walked out of our local hospital’s Emergency Department after having my textbook heart attack symptoms misdiagnosed as acid reflux. Much later, my increasingly debilitating cardiac symptoms were finally correctly diagnosed (same hospital, different Emerg doc). But after my hospital discharge, my pushy family and friends kept asking me about that first visit to Emergency: “Why didn’t you demand to see a cardiologist? Why didn’t you ask for more tests?”

As I was soon to learn, that is so NOT how most health care systems work – especially for female patients.    .    .   Continue reading “Women’s heart disease: wrong symptoms, wrong words or wrong diagnostic tools?”

The weirdest stuff I’ve learned about women’s heart disease

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

You know it’s Heart Month when scary facts about the dangers of heart disease start flooding our screens. But that kind of Heart Month messaging is so pre-COVID – long before September when we learned the shocking results of the American Heart Association’s national survey.  This survey found that women’s awareness of heart disease has actually declined – NOT improved at all! – over the past decade, despite all the inspiring Red Dress-awareness-raising-Go-Red-for-Women campaign efforts out there.  

So instead of repeating more scary facts as if I hadn’t read that survey’s results,  I’m simply offering some weird stuff I’ve learned over the years about women and heart disease:    .         .     Continue reading “The weirdest stuff I’ve learned about women’s heart disease”

Cardiac research and the mystery of the missing facts

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Over the years, I’ve had to teach myself the bare bone basics of interpreting cardiac studies. I’m certainly no research scientist (although I did spend 20 years of my life with one – does that count at all?) but I can tell you that one good place I like to start is the methodology section of any study.

Wait!  Don’t leave yet!   I know, I know, this may seem crushingly dull. But the methods info is how I learned, for example, that out of over 5,000 participants recruited for the $100 million ISCHEMIA study in 2019, only 23 per cent were women. At the time, I offered a helpful editing suggestion to the Washington Post about their sensational coverage of ISCHEMIA (“Stents and Bypass Surgery are No More Effective Than Drugs!!” ) by requesting this important clarifier added to the end of that headline: FOR MEN!”       .        .     Continue reading “Cardiac research and the mystery of the missing facts”