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Do women need different treatment of coronary artery disease?

19 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Dr. William Bestermann, in reviewing his own 40+ year career as a physician, now concludes that, in all of medicine, “there is no better example of the disconnect between what we know and what we do than in the case of women with coronary artery disease.” I’m a woman who has survived a widowmaker heart attack, and now lives with coronary microvascular disease, and I’ve only been writing about such sentiment for eight years. As Dr. B. explains bluntly:

“Every other week, I see a woman who has had symptoms of coronary artery disease and has been told that the problem is her esophagus – or worse – depression or anxiety.  She is told in effect: ‘Go home, take your anti-anxiety drugs, you will be fine!’  What she has been told is often wrong – too often, dead wrong!” Continue reading

Is coronary microvascular disease serious? Is the Pope Catholic?

22 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

It’s time for physicians to stop telling patients that a diagnosis of coronary microvascular disease (MVD) is no big deal. Or alternatively, to accept that the diagnosis is real in the first place. As one of my blog readers learned to her horror, this awareness is not yet universal. When she asked her own physician, for example, if her debilitating cardiac symptoms might be due to coronary microvascular disease, he replied: “I don’t believe in microvascular disease!” – as if they’d been discussing the damned Tooth Fairy.

But here’s how Dr. Stacey Rosen, a cardiologist and spokeswoman for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign, answered a question about microvascular disease in the New York Times recently:

Q: “I have been diagnosed with microvascular heart disease, which I was told mostly affects women and is not considered serious in and of itself. How long can it exist before it turns into serious heart disease?”

A:  “MVD can lead to heart attacks, heart failure and death. It’s serious.” Continue reading

Dear Carolyn: “I had both acid reflux and a heart attack at the same time!”

24 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

As I’ve repeatedly insisted, my Heart Sisters blog readers are the smartest, kindest, sharpest and best-looking readers out there in the blogosphere. . .  Today starts a series of Dear Carolyn posts starring my readers, each of whom has contacted me over the years to share, in her own words, the unique story of how she became a heart patient. Most of these, as you’ll discover if you keep up with this series, involve an “aha!” moment, or a plot twist that I didn’t see coming, or a lesson that just strikes me as downright useful for other women to know. And if you too have a personal heart story you think needs to be shared with the world (or at least the part of our world reading Heart Sisters each week), please share yours by contacting me here.

Today’s tale focuses on one of my favourite themes in women’s heart health: it’s possible to have both acid reflux (or any other chronic condition) AND a heart condition all at the same time. It’s from Debbie Orth, who lives near Cleveland, Ohio. (That’s Debbie in olive green at the centre of the photo above, having fun on a family cruise while celebrating her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, just seven months post-heart attack!) Continue reading

The shock – and ironic relief – of hearing a serious diagnosis

10 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I vaguely recall my gurney being wheeled very quickly down a wide hospital corridor after I heard the words “heart attack” from the cardiologist who had been called to the E.R. I stared up at the ceiling lights flicking by overhead, feeling strangely calm. Here’s what I recall thinking in my strangely calm state: when I’d first come into this same E.R. two weeks earlier, scared that my symptoms of chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm might be due to a heart attack, I had been right!

These symptoms had never been because I was “in the right demographic for acid reflux” (despite what the Emergency physician who’d sent me home that first day had confidently pronounced). But now, after two weeks of increasingly horrific symptoms, popping Gaviscon like candy, I just felt relieved that all of the people around me now would know how to take care of me. The shock of hearing my new (correct) diagnosis of heart attack was subsumed in that moment by a wave of profound relief. Continue reading

Women’s early warning signs of a heart attack

6 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

When Dr. Jean McSweeney from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences interviewed hundreds of heart attack survivors, she discovered something surprising: 95 percent of the women she interviewed actually suspected something was very wrong in the months leading up to their attack.

But even these early warning prodromal symptoms didn’t necessarily send women rushing to the doctor, as reported in Dr. McSweeney’s study published in the medical journal, Circulation.(1)  And for those women who did seek help early, doctors often failed to identify their problems as being heart-related.  Continue reading