Heart Sisters featured in Heart Month interviews

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥   @HeartSisters

Every month, the U.S. government’s ‘Office On Women’s Health’ newsletter Healthy Women Today features a column called Spotlight on Women’s Health.  This monthly column includes interviews with medical professionals or people living with a variety of medical conditions.

“We ask the questions we know you’re interested in, so that we may provide an inside look at women’s health,” their editor explains.

February is Heart Month – and to mark this important awareness initiative for women, the Healthy Women Today editor interviewed me for their February issue about being misdiagnosed and sent home from the E.R. during my heart attack.

NOTE: This interview is no longer available.

9 thoughts on “Heart Sisters featured in Heart Month interviews

  1. Really interesting interview and a good reminder during Heart Month for women to be their own best health advocate, as you suggest. We can not afford to be patted on the head and go away obediently because some ER doctor mistakenly misses a life-threatening diagnosis. The reality is that heart disease is being misdiagnosed in many women, and our outcomes are more deadly compared to men’s.

    I like the analogy re your daughter: ask yourselves “What would I do if this were my daughter/son/friend/mother experiencing these symptoms?” Would I be afraid to make a fuss in front of the doctor? NO!!!!!!!!!!!

    We have a long way to go when it comes to standing up for our own health issues.

    Thanks so much for this, I’m forwarding this to every woman I know. Good luck to you in your continued recuperation.


  2. The interview was great, and you’re an inspiration.

    Does it mean that a 35 year old woman has higher odds of a misdiagnosis than a 60 year old? Why?


  3. Great interview! Very inspiring! I would be curious to know if your initial heart workup was indeed “normal” or just mis-interpreted or simply not taken seriously one way or the other because you are a woman. Any ideas?


    1. Hi, Ruth – yes indeed my initial cardiac tests were apparently “normal”, but being sent home from the E.R. with “normal” test results is unfortunately common, even in women presenting in mid-heart attack.

      At Mayo Clinic, we learned several reasons for this. First, virtually all cardiac tests have been designed, developed and tested on male patients, not females. The treadmill stress test, for example, is notoriously less accurate in identifying heart disease in women. The cardiac enzyme troponin begins to peak in men’s bloodstreams 4-6 hours after the onset of heart attack symptoms. But women’s troponin levels can peak far later during a heart attack, at 18-24 hours, which can result in “normal” blood tests like mine if you are sent home from the E.R. within five hours of admission – long before your blood enzymes start peaking.

      Mayo Clinic cardiologists also told us that there are two types of heart disease that are more common in women than in men, and thus harder to accurately identify using current diagnostic tools:
      1. single vessel disease
      2. non-obstructive coronary artery disease (microvascular dysfunction, or vasospasms like Prinzmetal’s variant angina)

      I met a woman last year who told me of overhearing a conversation in the E.R. between a (male) physician and the (male) heart patient. “Your EKG is fine, and your blood tests are fine,” said the doctor to his patient. “But we’re going to keep you for observation to make sure it isn’t your heart!”

      That story illustrates the tragedy of this problem: men are being kept for observation despite “normal” cardiac test results, while women with “normal” results are being sent home with misdiagnoses ranging from acid reflux to anxiety to gall bladder or menopause problems.

      Thanks Ruth!


  4. Carolyn, your story is very similiar to mine. I was misdiagnosed with “holiday stress and anxiety”, and sent home the first time from the ER; the second time was when it was discovered I had a stroke! Nice interview!


    1. Yikes! Your misdiagnosis story makes me cringe. A STROKE!?!? Alas, this scenario of being sent home from the E.R. is tragically common for women. Apparently, the odds of being misdiagnosed with a cardiac event are about 1 in 50 (for both men and women) but if you are a woman younger than 55, your odds of a misdiagnosis are seven times higher. More on this at: “Heart Attack Misdiagnosis in Women” at http://www.myheartsisters.org/2009/05/28/heart-attack-misdiagnosis-women/

      Thanks, D….


      1. PS Our Cardiac Cafe on Saturday morning did have a full house – in fact, they had to move our venue to a bigger theatre-style classroom at UVic to accommodate all the extra people registered! Thanks again, Deborah.


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