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Dr. Google in the E.R.

25 Nov

 by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters    November 25, 2018

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 several 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

Typical vs. “atypical” heart attack signs in women

27 May

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 classic 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). 
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Open wide! Cardiac symptoms diagnosed in the dental chair

1 Apr

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters  ♥  April 1, 2018

Mary Kay Osborne is a heart patient from Hammondsport, New York. She replied recently to my blog post about early heart attack warning symptoms, and mentioned something that snagged my attention. That post had listed “jaw or teeth pain” as one of several possible early cardiac warning signs – especially in women’s heart attacks, as quoted in Dr. Sheila O’Keefe-McCarthy’s research. Mary Kay replied that she had experienced a number of early warning signs before her first coronary stent was implanted at age 57, including pain in her jaw and teeth:
“I started experiencing symptoms almost eight months before I suspected they were signs of heart issues. The fatigue and anxiety were terrible. And I began having a lot of pain in my jaw and teeth. I had a couple of teeth extracted that I don’t think I needed pulled. My dentist never told me there was an infection – just that they needed to be pulled. But afterwards, I still had pain in the area of the tooth extractions, like phantom pains. The emotional stress was terrible.”  ……

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Can early warning symptoms predict a heart attack?

18 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters  March 18, 2018

Did you know that you might experience early warning signs that mean you could be on your way to having a heart attack?

I would have answered NO to that question until I reflected (after the fact!) on the puzzling symptoms that I’d personally experienced two days in a row during the week before my first severe cardiac symptoms hit. 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