Is SCAD rare? Or just rarely diagnosed correctly?

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters    February 10, 2019

I was happy to see Katherine Leon featured in The New York Times recently. Katherine, like me, is a graduate of the WomenHeart Science & Leadership patient advocacy training at Mayo Clinic. She told the Times of undergoing emergency coronary bypass surgery at age 38, several days after her severe cardiac symptoms had been dismissed by doctors who told her, “There’s nothing wrong with you.” She isn’t alone. Many, many studies have shown that female heart patients are significantly more likely to be under-diagnosed – and worse, often under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed – compared to our male counterparts. This is especially true for women with her condition (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, or SCAD) that was once considered to be a rare disease. Dr. Sharonne Hayes is also featured in the NYT piece; she’s a respected Mayo Clinic cardiologist, longtime SCAD researcher and founder of the Mayo Women’s Heart Clinic. (You can read their story here).

But almost as soon as the Times piece was published online, I was gobsmacked to see some of the reader comments coming in – especially comments from people like these:   Continue reading “Is SCAD rare? Or just rarely diagnosed correctly?”

The dilemma of the death certificate

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters    February 3, 2019
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In a good old-fashioned murder mystery, we know that the plot starts to heat up when the dead body is discovered and the cause of death determined. But in real life, most of us will not die quite so dramatically.
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If we live with one or more chronic illnesses, in fact, the name of at least one of those diagnoses will probably be listed on our official death certificates someday. (We could also get run over by a bus long before then, but let’s face it, chronic diseases cause 70% of deaths worldwide).
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It struck me recently that, had I died during what doctors call my widowmaker heart attack in 2008, the official cause of death would have likely read “myocardial infarction”. But that would have been wrong. The actual cause of my death would have been that I was misdiagnosed with acid reflux and sent home from the Emergency Department.
Continue reading “The dilemma of the death certificate”

Fewer lights/sirens when a woman heart patient is in the ambulance

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters    January 13, 2019

emsI sometimes think that, during the almost 10 years I’ve been writing about women’s heart disease research, diagnostics and treatment, I’ve heard it all when it comes to women being under-diagnosed and under-treated (yes, sometimes under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed!)  I thought I was unshockable by now. But a study published last month in the journal, Women’s Health Issues (WHI) was indeed a shocker.    .
Continue reading “Fewer lights/sirens when a woman heart patient is in the ambulance”

Skin in the game: taking women’s cardiac misdiagnosis seriously

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters    December 16, 2018

Our physicians are highly trained experts in providing medical care, but it’s their patients who have “skin in the game”This odd phrase is believed to have originated in the financial sector to describe senior investment advisors who demonstrate their confidence in a company by putting their own money (their own “skin”) into the company in order to build investor confidence. So if stock prices fall, they stand to lose – just like their clients will. Advisors who choose not to do this may be every bit as smart, but they have no skin in the game.  Continue reading “Skin in the game: taking women’s cardiac misdiagnosis seriously”

Is ‘being nice’ hurting women?

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 “Is ‘being nice’ hurting women?”

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

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