Archive | Living with heart disease RSS feed for this section

How heart patients can untwist that twisted thinking

10 Dec

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

The freshly-diagnosed heart patient has plenty of opportunity to start thinking thoughts that are new, bizarre and sometimes even frightening. Any life-altering diagnosis can throw us off-balance emotionally, but with heart disease, even the tiniest twinge of new chest pain can paralyze us. Is this something? Is it nothing? Should I call 911 again? As New Zealand cardiac psychologist (and more importantly, a heart patient himself, Len Gould likes to say: “Before a heart attack, every twinge is just indigestion. After a heart attack, every twinge is another heart attack!”

And our worried thoughts can stick around far longer than they should, as we play them over and over and over like our first Beatles album. Mental health professionals call this kind of twisted thinking cognitive distortion. Continue reading

Living with both fibromyalgia and heart disease

5 Nov
by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

     Dr. Barbara Keddy

In her latest blog post, Dr. Barbara Keddy quotes my new book in this statement: Coping with a chronic illness is work” – an understatement coming from somebody like her.  She is a Professor Emerita at Dalhousie University in Halifax, a retired teacher of nurses, a respected author and blogger – but more importantly to this discussion, she has spent five decades living with fibromyalgia, and more recently, almost five years as a heart attack survivor. With her kind permission, I’m sharing her blog post here: part very personal essay, and part book review:

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

Life after heart attack if you’re a Type A

8 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Shortly after my heart attack, while I was lying around at home on the big red chair wondering when I was ever going to feel like my old self, my real self, my fun self again, I went online to seek help from a cardiac support group I’d just discovered (the WomenHeart online community at Inspire).  All I had to do was type in the question “Does anybody else out there experience this?” and I knew that many of the 32,000+ other women members living with heart disease would have an answer, a handy tip or just some virtual understanding for me.

What was happening to me? I had turned into a person I no longer recognized. That person I used to be – the one who was the last to leave any party, the one everybody else could count on, the one who thrived on juggling multiple deadlines with ease – seemed to have disappeared. How could I get her back?  Ongoing cardiac symptoms and an as-yet-undiagnosed coronary microvascular disorder meant a much slower pace that I did not like one bit. What should I be doing to speed up this annoyingly slow recovery business? I posed these questions to my online group, and among many replies, this one arrived from an anonymous sisterly soul who, like me, had been going through much the same awkward transition. A self-described recovering Type A personality, she wrote me the following:  Continue reading

Thoughts on returning to work if you’re a heart patient

27 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

A list of five Choosing Wisely recommendations from the field of occupational medicine caught my attention the other day. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of working with a real live occupational therapist, they are under-appreciated healthcare professionals who help recuperating patients develop, recover, and improve practical skills they need for daily living. The goal of the Choosing Wisely campaign is to basically help reduce waste in the healthcare system and avoid patient risks associated with unnecessary treatment. It’s all good. But the part of this occupational medicine list from Choosing Wisely Canada that stopped me in my tracks was the first recommendation on this list:
Continue reading