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The most dangerous kind of coronary artery blockage

16 Apr

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

We used to hear coronary heart disease described as “hardening of the arteries”, or atherosclerosis. I pictured this as some kind of clogged drain under an old sink, plugged up with years of disgustingly hard gunk. But it turns out that only about three out of every 10 heart attacks are actually caused by this kind of hardened coronary artery blockage.

The rest of us can blame soft, vulnerable and unstable plaque within the walls of those arteries. This may also help to explain (as I’ve written about here and here) why you can have a “normal” cardiac test one month, and be back in hospital the following month with a heart attack. Here’s how that can sometimes happen, according to experts at the Texas Heart Institute: Continue reading

“You’re young, healthy, thin – and nothing’s wrong with your heart”

18 Dec
Elissa and her family

              Elissa and her family

Elissa is a busy 32-year old professional violinist, a mother of three, and a violin teacher who also teaches part-time at her local university. Last year, the northern Utah resident began experiencing unusual symptoms that seemed to be heart-related: chest pain, shortness of breath and crushing fatigue.

These symptoms were so alarming that she knew she needed to seek medical help. See if you can spot the red flag as she tells her story . . .

Continue reading

Cathy’s stroke: “Nobody noticed my husband”

20 Nov

                                   What to look for during a stroke

Guest post by Cathy Aumack-Bandy *

We all know someone who has had a stroke. For many, it’s a friend. For some, a relative. A spouse? A partner? A parent? Maybe even a child.

Stroke is one of those events that most people fear – and rightly so. Maybe it’s because so many times, it seems to come out of nowhere. It strikes a person down without warning. And, once it makes an appearance, stroke shows no mercy. It leaves much in its ruin. It changes people. It changes lives forever – and that’s even in the best case scenario. Continue reading

Turning “Why me?” into “Why not me?”

24 Jul

3heartsby Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Cathy Aumack-Bandy of Florida wrote this open letter in response to another heart patient’s question to her last month. I’m running this compelling essay here with her kind permission. Hold onto your hats . . .

When first diagnosed with cardiac problems, many people ask, “Who Me? No…” My version of the question “Who me?” was “Why Me?” – until the day my Mom asked, “Why NOT you?”  I hadn’t thought of it that way.

I went into the hospital because of a bout with “asthmatic bronchitis” that I just could not shake. I never imagined it might be a heart problem (neither I guess did my former primary care physician). I’d had a full cardiac work-up in October and been declared “heart healthy.”

Talk about shock… Who knew?

Just two days after my admission, a doctor (I didn’t know him at the time, or that he was a cardiologist) came into my room and, totally ignoring me in the bed, told my husband Gary that my heart was barely functioning and that without a transplant, I would not make three months.  Continue reading

1 in 5 have this genetic risk factor for heart disease – but don’t know it

17 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Sandra Revill Tremulis was a healthy, fit woman who had a heart attack at the age of 39 despite an apparent lack of any cardiac risk factors. She’d never smoked, had a healthy diet, normal weight, normal cholesterol/blood pressure – and had run a marathon just the year before. So Sandra’s doctor ordered advanced blood tests and discovered that she had inherited a genetic abnormality that causes early heart disease. One in five people carry this gene, yet most are completely unaware that they do.

Continue reading

No blockages: Living with non-obstructive heart disease

10 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Annette PompaAnnette Pompa of Pennsylvania lives with a cardiac diagnosis I’d never even heard of until I, too, was diagnosed with it several months after surviving a heart attack. It’s called Coronary Microvascular Disease (MVD) or Small Vessel Disease. Unlike the classic Hollywood Heart Attack I’d initially experienced – which is typically caused by a significantly blocked major coronary artery – those of us diagnosed with MVD or coronary spasm disorders have few if any detectable blockages obstructing flow in the major blood vessels feeding the heart muscle. Yet we can experience the same distressing symptoms of a heart attack. Annette is a former art teacher who was barely 41 years old when MVD “came barging into my life”, as she explains. With her permission, I’m reprinting this transcript of an American Heart Association presentation that Annette gave recently about living with a non-obstructive heart condition.

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“This is my story. I represent an often misunderstood population living with a very different type of heart disease. Sadly, there are many more like me with MVD who are simply not being recognized – and indeed even dismissed. Symptoms often persist even without any visible blockage or reason for the angina, shortness of breath and fatigue which often accompany the condition. It is crazy, right? Here I was seemingly healthy – yet ended up battling heart disease.  Continue reading