The most-read posts of 2017 from Heart Sisters

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

This past year has felt in turn like the most agonizingly slow year ever, and at other times like a runaway train threatening to throw me off at the next turn. Just this week during our family’s Christmas Eve dinner, for example, my daughter Larissa commented wistfully about her 2 1/2-year-old daughter Everly Rose, whose only goal in life lately is to be a big girl: “Last Christmas, we had a baby in the house, but this year I have a kid!” Why is she growing so fast? Where did that whole year go? But slow or fast, my Sunday morning blog posts continued throughout 2017. Thank you, dear readers – here are some of the Heart Sisters highlights for the past year:

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 7.17.58 AM copy

  • The Martha and Carolyn Show!   In February 2017, I was thrilled to welcome a cardiologist I like to describe as “one of the rock stars of cardiology”: Dr. Martha Gulati, Professor of Medicine and Chief of Cardiology at The University of Arizona in Phoenix (and also, like myself, a proud Canadian). Dr. Martha had generously offered to fly up to Victoria to join me for my annual Heart-Smart Women talk. She wowed the crowd (a full house with a waiting list!) with her knowledge and passion about women’s heart health. (And she also wowed me by agreeing to write the beautiful and thoughtful 4-page foreword of my new book). Here’s what I wrote about Dr. Martha’s first ever visit to Victoria!


  • Just living life. No awesomeness required. Barbara Westfall tells her compelling story about what she calls “life-living” that spoke to me – and many of you, too. She writes about those magical moments when we just try to live life as if we didn’t have a life-altering medical condition, thank you very much –  no matter what our diagnosis.



  • My medical diagnosis means more to me than to you:  This popular post explores what happens to the doctor-patient relationship when patients living with chronic illness know more about their diagnosis than their physician does.  As the late Dr. Rosamund Snow wrote in her published research on this important issue: “Patients who have in-depth knowledge of their condition encounter problems when their expertise is seen as inappropriate in standard healthcare interactions.”


  • Women’s heart disease: is it underdiagnosed, or misdiagnosed?  There’s a straightforward yet distressing answer to that question: the more that misdiagnosis happens to individual women, one after another, the more likely we are to continue seeing underdiagnosis of women heart patients as a whole. Read what these heart patients say about what a diagnostic error can feel like.


  • “Refrain from operating a chainsaw after your cardiac procedure”: Why are female heart patients receiving outdated hospital discharge instructions, clearly written for male patients, as if hospitals are unaware that women have heart disease, too? Consider the official instructions described to me by an astute blog reader who had just undergone a radial (wrist) access angioplasty/stent procedure: “Refrain from operating a lawnmower, motorcycle, chainsaw, or all terrain vehicle.” She added: “I knew this was written for MEN, not women.” This – and other examples of patient communication that just make no sense.


  • The “big disconnect” in women’s heart health Cardiologist Dr. Holly Andersen believes that increasing public awareness of heart disease can save lives, and this must start with women. She likes to say that “if you can educate a woman, you educate the family.” This post contains her sobering take on what she calls the “big disconnect” in women’s heart disease awareness, prevention and treatment compared to men.


  • Premenopausal women and cardiac symptoms: In this intriguing research, more than half of the women studied had a heart attack within six days after their periods started. There’s even a gynaecology term called “menstrual angina”. Here’s what scientists are saying about how our hormones affect our hearts.



  • A Woman’s Guide to Living With Heart Disease: my blog-turned-book project!  As you might imagine after two long years of work, the publication of my new book by Johns Hopkins University Press in November represented a huge milestone! This post offers an insider’s look at the good and the not-so-good process behind the scenes. Thanks so much to all of you who have read the book, recommended it to your friends, families and colleagues, written reviews, or sent me so many kind and supportive notes. 
Hurray! The #1 New Release (Medicine/Public Health) on Amazon during its first week!


I no longer make New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, for the past 34 years,  I create a new vision poster every New Year’s Eve. My vision poster is a framed collage covered with words and images representing everything I want to include in the year ahead.  I display my vision poster in a prominent place I see every day to remind me throughout the year if I’m on track.


Q:  What would be on your own vision poster for 2018?



8 thoughts on “The most-read posts of 2017 from Heart Sisters

  1. Carolyn, I too want to thank you for your blog and look forward to reading your book in the new year! I plan to order it soon.

    I’m so intrigued by the idea of a new Vision Poster. I love making collages so this appeals to me a lot. Giving a lot of thought to what I might put on such a collage.

    I’ve taught art for years to private school and homeschooled students, mostly upper grades, but (at age 60) I’m doing the first ever display of my own art this month on the “Art Wall” of a local small town cafe and I’m excited about it. Mostly kind of a retrospective, my art wall display will include a selection of “heart art” that I began making actually before receiving my first stent (of 2) in Feb 2015, not knowing I was becoming a heart patient at that time. After the stent, I did a weaving of a heart on a canvas and embellished it with a “stent” made out of glass beads. I wrote a message around the heart saying “Thank you for my” and then in larger letters stenciled the word “stent” below. I found it enormously therapeutic to do that piece. Originally I was going to give it to my doctor but I couldn’t part with it, it means too much to me.

    Hearts have become a theme in my art since then, in various media. Since my art will be up for part of February (heart disease awareness month), I plan to add information about heart disease alongside the artworks. One vision I have for the new year and beyond is, how can I use my art to educate and encourage women (and men) heart patients? I encourage women, especially, to use their creativity and make some kind of art piece, or a poem or song or whatever their talent is, to work through the emotions of their heart diagnosis and treatment.

    Happy New Year to you, Carolyn, and to everyone here! Wishing blessings of peace, joy, and good health to all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Meghan and thank you so much for telling us about your heart art. I too have become a heart collector (including an antique non-working chandelier hanging in my bedroom with dozens of little hearts – metal, fabric, glass, you name it – hanging from it). Each one is beautiful, and comes with a story.

      I love the idea of your art exhibition (and associated heart health info!) at your local cafe. At the University of British Columbia, medical students can participate in a Heartfelt Art heart-themed exhibit each year – with gorgeous anatomically correct hearts created in everything from watercolours to wire mesh or wool. They were all on display at the huge Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver in October!

      Thanks for your wonderful comment, and good luck creating your own Vision Poster for 2018!


  2. Thank you so much for your blogs and book!! It’s the one place I don’t feel minimized as a woman… I survived a STEMI heart attack this year after being sent home 6 months before with the same symptoms because they didn’t see a problem on an angiogram even though the troponin was elevated at that time….

    This time they were able to retrieve the clot and stent the LAD but still don’t see a “problem” with any other heart areas. To say I am expecting another event for no reason is no small issue… now the cardiac doctor says he doesn’t need to see me for 8 more months (or until another event).

    I called and changed it because I need the reassurance for my mental health….too bad if they don’t agree….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Chris. Your story is, sadly, familiar to many other women whose symptoms have been “minimized”. Unless ER docs see significant diagnostic test results that clearly point to a heart attack, they are unlikely to admit that woman to hospital. In your case, elevated cardiac enzymes on your troponin blood tests should have been a big red flag.

      But keep in mind that it’s quite possible (and indeed very common) for women to have a major blockage in one coronary artery only yet no other blockages in other arteries, so your cardiologists may be absolutely correct in their assessment that there are no other problems in other areas. I’m glad you have an earlier follow-up appointment now, but listen carefully to your cardiologist’s explanation and ask as many questions as you can about your heart health. Do not leave the office until you feel reassured and informed, and meanwhile try hard not to expect catastrophe when none exists – because that fretting is NOT good for your heart! Best of luck to you…


Your opinion matters. What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s