When male and female heart patients play the same game, but with different rules

                                   .        Notice anything unusual about this group of doctors?

by Carolyn Thomas    ♥   @HeartSisters

She introduced herself to me as she took her seat – although she, of course, needed NO introduction. I was utterly star-struck to realize that THE Nanette Wenger had just sat down beside me in the Mayo Clinic auditorium hosting our conference on women and heart disease. Between the onstage presentations, she chatted amiably, graciously curious about me, a heart patient/panelist on that day’s conference schedule.  I asked about her early days as a female cardiologist in such a steeply male-dominated field. My take-away from that memorable autumn afternoon:  when a noted medical pioneer who has been a practicing cardiologist for 70 years speaks, you listen!

Here’s what Dr. Wenger recently had to say about a Yale University study – in her no-nonsense editorial published in the cardiac journal Circulation – Sauce for the Goose vs. Sauce for the Gander:  Should Men and Women Play the Same Game But With Different Rules?”          .      Continue reading “When male and female heart patients play the same game, but with different rules”

New chest pain guideline: “atypical” is OUT!

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

At last! This long-awaited first-ever Guideline for the Evaluation and Diagnosis of Chest Pain for physicians and their patients has done a deep dive to help improve accuracy in evaluating and diagnosing cardiac symptoms(1)  – a huge and overwhelming effort.  I’m hopeful that updated guidelines might represent a turning point for all women presenting with those symptoms – and for the physicians who diagnose them.  Here’s my take on the impressive new Chest Pain Guideline  – along with a few concerns:      .       .  Continue reading “New chest pain guideline: “atypical” is OUT!”

“Be alert to both the absence of normal as well as the presence of abnormal”

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

It isn’t often that I’m wide awake at 1 a.m. But sometimes, a dream or a fire truck siren or whatever jolts me so wide awake in the middle of the night that sleep seems suddenly impossible. When this does happen, I’ve learned that I can sometimes lull myself back to sleep by turning on my bedside radio. (Radios! Remember those?)  My old clock radio is tuned permanently to CBC, our national Canadian broadcaster. And 1 a.m. is when CBC runs the Public Radio International program called “The World” . I love that show.

It isn’t often that I hear something on The World so perfectly applicable to women’s heart attacks that I’m moved to sit up in bed, grab a Sharpie and the little stack of post-it notes beside said radio, and quickly scribble down the words before I forget what’s just been said. But this was one of those times.         .    .    Continue reading ““Be alert to both the absence of normal as well as the presence of abnormal””

Dr. Google in the E.R.

 by Carolyn Thomas   ♥  @HeartSisters

Once upon a time, whenever the good citizens of Belgium experienced puzzling symptoms (let’s say, twitching eyelids), they would turn to Dr. Google to find out what might be causing the symptoms. But the Belgian government, concerned about false and scary health information online, came up with a public awareness campaign that warned: “Don’t Google It. Check a reliable source!” This also included a referral link to a government health site that could help to correctly answer questions about twitching eyelids and other health issues.

This campaign was what patient activist Dave de Bronkart (aka ePatient Dave) bluntly described at the time as “spectacularly wrong, insulting, misinformed and wrong-headed.” Continue reading “Dr. Google in the E.R.”

Typical vs. “atypical” heart attack signs in women

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters  May 27, 2018

Before I was misdiagnosed with acid reflux and sent home from the Emergency Department, the heart attack symptoms I was experiencing had seemed pretty dramatic during that eventful early morning walk. They were, in fact, what all physicians (and Dr. Google) would consider to be typical heart attack signs. 

My most debilitating symptom at the time was the chest pain that doctors know as angina pectoris (a Latin name that translates gruesomely as “strangulation of the chest”). In my case, it felt like a cross between a Mack truck parked on my chest and a burning searing pain going up into my throat. I also felt like I was going to vomit, I was sweating profusely, and I had pain radiating down my left arm. (None of those textbook symptoms, by the way, helped to convince the Emergency physician that I was, in fact, having a heart attack. Read more about misdiagnosis of women’s heart disease in this Heart and Stroke Foundation report here). 
Continue reading “Typical vs. “atypical” heart attack signs in women”