Walking the tightrope: women cardiologists in an old boys’ club

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters   

You know there’s trouble when the Women In Cardiology Leadership Council reports this year that their group (part of the American College of Cardiology) is “very frustrated and concerned about the lack of growth in the numbers of women pursuing a career in cardiology.”(1) 

And no wonder! Fewer than 13 per cent of cardiologists are women, despite what’s been called “a robust pipeline of female med students and internal medicine residents” who could choose this field.(2)  And I’d bet my next squirt of nitro spray that a man implanted your stent  – because only about 5 per cent of all interventional cardiologists (the ones specifically trained for this procedure) are women.

Female cardiologists are not only the minority in their profession, but “discrimination against women is entrenched in the culture of cardiology”; in fact, female cardiologists are more likely than males (96% vs 8%) to experience discrimination related to gender.(3)       .         .            .         .    Continue reading “Walking the tightrope: women cardiologists in an old boys’ club”

Two kinds of heart patients, and the third kind that aren’t patients – yet!

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

The shocking 2019 American Heart Association National Survey results released in September reported that women’s awareness of heart disease has actually declined during the past decade. As my regular readers already know, I felt sick when I read this. Barely half of the women surveyed, for example, could recognize “chest pain” as a possible sign of heart attack. It took a wee lie-down before I was able to re-evaluate my own awareness-raising efforts here on Heart Sisters.  At first blush, it appeared to me that I’m aiming to reach two specific kinds of women.    .     .  Continue reading “Two kinds of heart patients, and the third kind that aren’t patients – yet!”

“Don’t lift anything heavier than a fork”: really bad advice after heart surgery

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

Almost 200 years ago, newspapers reported on the outcome of a surgical amputation performed in London by Robert Liston (apparently known as the “fastest knife in the West End” – because speed was important in pre-anaesthesia 1829). Here’s how this was described:

“The operation was successful, but the patient died.”

We don’t know much about the unfortunate patient who went under the knife that day (thus making that ironic description famous in medical circles). But fast forward through the centuries to a duo of modern researchers who wondered why some patients who are undergoing successful cardiac surgery end up having poor outcomes, too.       .                 

Continue reading ““Don’t lift anything heavier than a fork”: really bad advice after heart surgery”

How long does it take to heal from open heart surgery?

                                Valerie Johnson’s surgery was in 2013:  ©British Heart Foundation

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

Heart patients are like all other patients in one major way: we have important quality-of-life questions for our doctors, like: “How long will it take after my _______  (insert name of  medical procedure) before I’m feeling well enough to _______  (insert whatever it is you want to get back to doing: drive, fly, golf, have sex, return to work, etc.)?” 

But what happens when different doctors offer different answers to that important question?       .         .            .   Continue reading “How long does it take to heal from open heart surgery?”

The “handlebar gripping” cardiac symptom

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

When the Emergency Department physician misdiagnosed my “widow maker” heart attack as acid reflux, I actually felt relieved at first.  I’d much rather have indigestion than heart disease, thank you very much. His confident misdiagnosis meant I was temporarily willing to ignore the obvious cardiac symptoms that had propelled me to Emergency that morning: central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm.

Even I knew that arm pain is NOT a symptom of acid reflux, yet somehow that first plausible answer seemed preferable to the far more serious real answer I would receive much later.      .      . Continue reading “The “handlebar gripping” cardiac symptom”

Women’s heart disease: an awareness campaign fail?

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

I’ve been thinking a lot about awareness-raising lately because of a bombshell report(1) from the 2019 American Heart Association National Survey released this month.  Among other completely demoralizing findings, this report found that women’s awareness of their most common heart attack symptoms has significantly declined from a prior survey done 10 years earlier. How is that even possible?   .      .     .  Continue reading “Women’s heart disease: an awareness campaign fail?”