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Is ‘being nice’ hurting women?

30 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    September 30, 2018

Imagine the reaction from Emergency Department staff to the woman I met at my Mayo Clinic training, the one who had been sent home from Emergency three days in a row despite her complaints of increasingly distressing cardiac symptoms. Each time she arrived there, she clearly declared the following to the Emergency physician, who continued to repeatedly dismiss her concerns:

“I don’t care what you say. SOMETHING is wrong with me!”

What a royal pain in the ass, staff may have muttered about her, sotto voce.

On her third visit, the physician recommended anti-anxiety medications. But on the fourth visit, on that fourth day, she was taken directly from the E.R. to the O.R. to undergo emergency coronary bypass surgery. Continue reading

Dear Carolyn: “Did I have a ‘real’ heart attack?”

8 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     July 8, 2018

As part of my occasional Dear Carolyn series featuring my readers’ unique narratives about how they became heart patients, I offer today a medical mystery from an Oregon reader. After dueling physicians differed in their opinions of her diagnosis, Lynn Bay now wonders if she actually did have a “real” heart attack, as one of them had diagnosed. Her story may seem familiar to you if you’ve ever had your medical experience dismissed or minimized. Here’s Lynn’s story, with her permission: Continue reading

“Dear Carolyn: I was never one to complain. . . “

10 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    June 10, 2018

Sometimes, the story of how another woman first discovered she had heart disease can seem eerily familiar to our own. It’s that familiarity that first attracted me to this Dear Carolyn episode (our fourth in the occasional series that features my Heart Sisters readers sharing the unique experience of what it can feel like to become a heart patient).

This particular blog reader, who prefers to remain anonymous, explains her reluctance to seek medical help while repeatedly blaming her distressing symptoms on non-cardiac causes. I completely identified with that reluctance because I went through that same surreal refusal to seek help for my own worsening cardiac symptoms after being misdiagnosed in the E.R. with acid reflux. If you, too, have ever engaged in what researchers call “treatment-seeking delay behaviour” during a heart attack, her story might feel familiar to you, too. Continue reading

“Doing Harm”: Enter to win Maya Dusenbery’s new book

11 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    March 11, 2018

Author Maya Dusenbery interviewed me while I was neck-deep in final copy edits of my book, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease. She wanted to talk about why women heart patients are more likely to be under-diagnosed than men, and then – worse! – more likely to be under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed. Maya was writing her own book at the time, and it’s finally out this week. Its pithy title sums up the focus pretty succinctly: Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick. Here’s a 10-word summary of her book:

My own review of Dusenbery’s book starts with this warning to my heart sisters: “Do NOT start reading Doing Harm unless you have first taken your blood pressure meds!”    Continue reading

Let’s pretend that atypical heart attack symptoms don’t exist

25 Feb
by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters  ♥  February 25, 2018

Two cardiology reports landed in my inbox on the same day this past week, inside the same issue of the same cardiology journal. The first was a Yale University study on how women, particularly women younger than age 55, fare worse after surviving a heart attack compared to male counterparts, partly because of a tendency to present with vague or atypical symptoms that can delay accurate diagnoses.(1) The second was about the future of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women® campaign.(2)* Both papers were published in the journal, Circulation.

The trouble was this: each report seemed to contradict the other. Continue reading