Archive | January, 2013

The myth of the menopause link

31 Jan

Image via RSCby Carolyn Thomas

We know that women’s heart disease rates seem to take a big jump as we get older. For decades, early studies have reported, for example, that our post-menopausal cardiac event incidence rates are more than double those in pre-menopausal years.* And even more recent studies seem to target menopause as the likely culprit in explaining these stats; women who go into early menopause (before their 46th birthday) are twice as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and stroke, according to Johns Hopkins-led research published in the October issue of the journal Menopause.**

So imagine the fuss when Vancouver’s Dr. Jerilynn Prior, a professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of British Columbia and also scientific director of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, declared:

“It is a myth that estrogen deficiency associated with menopause causes heart disease in women.”

Here’s how she further elaborated this claim in an article about women’s risks for cardiovascular disease:   Continue reading

Why the Harvard Business Review was wrong about patients

27 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters


Maybe it’s because I’m not a physician, a nurse or any other type of health care provider. Maybe it’s because I’m merely a dull-witted heart attack survivor. Maybe it’s because I spent virtually all of my 30+ year professional career in the field of public relations. But the reality is that I seem to think about health care more like a marketer than the average person might, and as such, I’ve been puzzled for some time about recent quality of care debates on whether patients should be considered “consumers” or not.

In one debate camp, you have doctors like Dr. Atul Gawande, whose Big Med article in The New Yorker caused apoplectic sputtering among some of his colleagues when it was published last August.  That’s because Dr. Gawande touted a national restaurant chain as a potential model of the kind of standardization and quality that have been so lacking in health care.   Continue reading

Heart palpitations – what do they mean?

23 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

Dr. David Sabgir at one of his

Dr. David Sabgir at one of his “Walk With A Doc” events

I love the concept of Walk With A Doc. This non-profit group was founded in 2005 by Dr. David Sabgir, an Ohio cardiologist. His reason was simple: telling his heart patients to get out and exercise just wasn’t working. His WWAD project involves recruiting volunteer physicians willing to lace up their sneakers and lead scheduled walks in their communities. These docs kick off each walk with a brief informational talk on some aspect of health. WWAD now boasts doctor-led neighbourhood walks all over the U.S. and Canada – as well as overseas in Russia, India, Australia and Abu Dhabi so far.

Walk With A DocIt’s absolutely free to register a Walk With A Doc program, and in return, physicians receive cool stuff like WWAD pedometers, T-shirts, banners, prescription pads so they can write WWAD orders for their patients, and even sample press releases to send to local media. If your doctor isn’t already leading a Walk With A Doc group in your community, please forward this info about how to get started. And while you’re waiting, here’s what Dr. Sabgir had to say in a recent WWAD newsletter about how he views the common patient experience of heart palpitationsContinue reading

“Live a healthy life, then die quickly at 90”

19 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

woman funny oldYou’d hardly expect a physician who spends his life trying to cure cancer to suddenly shift gears and suggest that maybe, just maybe, we should “stop trying”. But it turns out that New Jersey oncologist Dr. James Salwitz agrees with a review of data published in the September 2012 issue of Lancet Oncology, entitled “First Do No Harm: Counting the Cost of Chasing Drug Efficacy.” *

An accompanying Lancet editorial suggests that during the 10 years between 2000 and 2010, “many new cancer drugs produced marginal extensions in survival and simultaneously increased risk of treatment-associated death and side effects.”  This compelled Dr. Salwitz to write:    Continue reading

Tell me a (heart attack) story

15 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

Before the start of each shiny new year, how I love sitting down with both my current calendar and my brand new one side by side. I like flipping through both, month by month, transferring all the important birthdays, anniversaries and already-booked dates from one to the other. For the past four years, those new calendar dates have included my upcoming public speaking events as I continue to take my WomenHeart presentations on the road each year.

Besides sharing some sobering facts and figures about the very serious diagnosis of heart disease (for example, heart disease kills six times more women each year than breast cancer does, and in fact, more women than all forms of cancer combined), my presentations are mostly facts wrapped up as stories. Women in my heart health presentation audiences may think that they’re just listening to my dramatic story of heart attack misdiagnosis and survival, but by the time I get through with them, they’ve also learned about cardiac risk factors, research, anatomy, symptoms, treatments and prevention. Research tells us that “storytelling is a vastly powerful tool.”  And here’s why.  Continue reading