Archive | February, 2013

Top 25 treatments for anxiety

28 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Few things in life are as anxiety-producing as being told you have heart disease. Many heart patients become hypervigilant, on high alert to every new twinge that may or may not signal the start of another cardiac crisis. Is this something? Is it nothing? Should I call 911?  Even if symptoms are fleeting and benign, debilitating anxiety can remain.  And most remedies for easing these distressing feelings come in a pill bottle. But are there other treatments for anxiety that are as good as – or perhaps better than – pharmaceuticals? It turns out that, according to patients themselves, there very well may be.

Alexandra Carmichael is the co-founder of CureTogether, a site that collects patient-reported health data. I was intrigued by one of their reports called “6,100 Patients With Anxiety Report What Treatments Work Best”. Where did this data come from? Alexandra explains:

“CureTogether members have been anonymously sharing symptoms and treatments for three years. We analyze the data into infographic form to make it accessible.”

According to CureTogether’s crowdsourced data, here are the top 25 treatments for anxiety that thousands of other Real Live Patients – not drug reps for Big Pharma – say have worked for them:   Continue reading

Empathy 101: how to sound like you give a damn

24 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

During the first follow-up appointment with my (now former) family doctor a few weeks after surviving a heart attack, I noticed something unsettling right away. First, she seemed utterly preoccupied with her own possible part in missing some magical sign that I’d been at risk for this surprising cardiac event. She reviewed lab test after lab test while I sat there watching her claw through a thick file (no electronic charts there!) of my lipid and blood pressure results going back years. It struck me that this follow-up visit was somehow all about her – not about ME at all!

Hey! Remember me? The one who actually had the frickety-frackin’ heart attack?   Continue reading

Bereavement Eating: does grief cause carb cravings?

20 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas  (originally published here shortly after my mother’s death this week in 2012)

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 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

Living with the “burden of treatment”

16 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Dr. Victor Montori of Mayo Clinic describes two types of patients living with chronic illness who don’t follow their physicians’ advice when it comes to implementing recommended treatments or therapies. The first group may just not want to take the pills, or they want to try natural remedies instead, or they want to get better on their own, or they can’t afford their meds, or they just don’t trust that these recommendations will work for them.

But the second group of patients, Dr. Montori explains, may be working very hard to do everything their doctors have suggested (like taking prescribed meds, monitoring their vital signs, coming to all appointments – not only with doctors but with nurses or dieticians or other health care providers). Doing all that takes so much time and effort – on top of feeling sick a lot, juggling family, work and social life – that it can get to be too much.

So they just stop doing it.

Dr. Montori and his like-minded colleagues call this scenario the “burden of treatment” for patients.  Continue reading

“She’s a fighter!” and other metaphors in medicine

12 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters

Are you “battling” heart disease”? Have you “beaten” cancer? Are you “fighting” a chronic illness? These wartime references are metaphors as described by Dr. Jack Coulehan, a physician, an award-winning poet, and editor of the 5th edition of The Medical Interview: Mastering Skills for Clinical Practice, a best-selling textbook on the doctor-patient relationship. Dr. C explains that there are several of these basic metaphors used in medicine that to a large extent generate the vocabulary of doctor-patient communication.

Here are three of the most prominent metaphors encountered in health care:  Continue reading

Are you a mindful eater?

8 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I’m glad that the movie theatre is dark while I’m eating my popcorn.  I say this because I once had a traumatic experience watching the man sitting in front of us gobble down his gigantic tub of popcorn before the house lights were dimmed for the film. He was shovelling in that corn like there was no tomorrow. It was mesmerizing to see. There was a certain hypnotic poetry in the fluid piston-like rise and fall of one arm as he swiftly filled and then emptied each fistful. His mouth never seemed to shut – even as he somehow managed to chew and swallow while escaping kernels flew about his head and shoulders. Now that’s mindless eating for you. And good Lord, is that what I look like, too?!

But psychologists who study such things tell us that mindful eating, on the other hand, can be a useful method for aiding behaviour change to help with healthier eating and weight loss. Even better, focused attentive eating habits are something that we can practice on our own. So says Dr. Andrew Schwartz, writing in Consumer Reports last month. Here’s what else Dr. Schwartz had to say:   Continue reading