At some point during the two-year adventure of writing my new book, “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease“, an author questionnaire arrived from my publisher’s marketing staff at Johns Hopkins University Press, including this request: “Sometimes a conversation is the best way to introduce a book/author. Please answer the following questions:”
♥ Q: What were some of the most surprising things you learned while writing/researching this book?
♥ A: My book is based on excerpts from some of the 700+ Heart Sisters blog articles. What surprised me most was how certain topics had attracted an avalanche of reader responses compared to others. The most popular were invariably articles in which I wrote about the profound psychosocial impact of being overwhelmed by a life-altering diagnosis. So when deciding on which topics should go into my book, I looked for reader responses that started, “I thought I was the only one who felt this way until I read this. . .”
♥ Q: What is new about your book that sets it apart from other books in the field?
♥ A: This book is very different from other heart books. First of all, it’s written by a heart patient, not by a cardiologist. It’s partly a dramatic personal narrative about what it’s like to survive a misdiagnosed heart attack, partly an overview of the often-dismissed psychological fallout that heart patients can expect along the relatively predictable road to recovery, and partly a patient-friendly, jargon-free, plain-English translation of important scientific research on women’s heart disease.
When I was first diagnosed, I was desperate to learn more about what had just happened to me. I wasn’t looking for books about bad cholesterol or heart-healthy recipes. I wanted to find a book written for a woman like me, by a woman like me. The book I wrote is that book I couldn’t find as a freshly-diagnosed heart patient. And I like evidence, so I’ve included hundreds of medical journal citations when quoting studies. On my Heart Sisters blog, I’ve spent years compiling a huge jargon-free, patient-friendly glossary of complex cardiology terms – a really useful resource that I’m thrilled to say is now part of my book, too.
♥ Q: Did you encounter any eye-opening statistics while writing your book?
♥ A: All statistics about women and cardiovascular disease are eye-opening! For example:
- women heart patients are more likely to be underdiagnosed – and then undertreated even when appropriately diagnosed – compared to our male counterparts
- cardiovascular disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year in North America, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds
- cardiovascular disease kills 5-6 times more women every year than breast cancer does
- cardiovascular disease kills more women every year than all forms of cancer combined
- until recently, most cardiac research over the past four decades has been done either exclusively on (white, middle-aged) male subjects, or with fewer than 20% female subjects studied (and most cardiac studies on animals have used only male lab animals)
- women are twice as likely as men to die within one year after surviving a heart attack
- women who have experienced pregnancy complications like preeclampsia are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease (a preeclampsia history, in fact, is now considered to be as serious a cardiac risk factor as a failed treadmill stress test)
- the rate of sudden cardiac death of young women in their 30s and 40s is increasing much faster than in men of the same age, rising 30% in the last decade
- 90% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in North America are fatal
- although smoking rates are declining overall (18% of white women, 13% of black women and 7% of Hispanic women now smoke), 1/3 of cardiovascular disease deaths are still attributable to smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
- barely 17% of women meet the current Federal Physical Activity Guidelines
- 90% of women have one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease
- 80% of cardiovascular disease events may be prevented by lifestyle changes
♥ Q: What is the single most important fact revealed in your book and why is it significant?
♥ A: There are far too many significant facts in this book to be able to pick just one!
♥ Q: How do you envision the lasting impact of your book?
♥ A: I like to imagine that the women who read it will be able to recognize their own unique experiences in this book–no matter what the specific diagnosis–and feel less alone while coping with a health crisis. And I hope that physicians, nurses and healthcare professionals will also read this book, as Dr. Barbara Keddy says in her wonderful review, “as a lesson about listening to and taking seriously the voices of female patients.”
♥ Q: What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?
♥ A: I hope that the overall take away message here will be that women must stop putting themselves last on their own priority lists when it comes to surviving a health crisis. For example, we know that women consistently delay seeking emergency treatment (yes, even in mid-heart attack as I did!) far more frequently than our male counterparts do. So I remind women to ask yourself what you would do if your symptoms were happening to your daughter, or your sister, or your Mum, or to any other woman you care about. Then seek–and demand!–that same care for yourself. You know your body, and you know when something is just not right. Respect that little warning voice inside!
♥ THANK YOU! ♥