I was once asked by a U.S. publisher to review a new book written by a heart patient, a memoir about her surprising diagnosis. But about 12 pages in, she mentioned that she had been a chain-smoker for three decades before her “surprising” cardiac diagnosis. I had to re-read that line. How could a person who had been chain smoking for decades possibly be “surprised” by this predictable outcome? Didn’t this clearly intelligent, educated woman know that smoking is a dangerous risk factor for heart disease (and a whole bunch of other nasty health issues)? I thought of this book recently when a new study from Harvard researcher Dr. Catherine Kreatsoulas reported that women are in fact more likely than men to underestimate their own risk of heart disease. . . . Continue reading “Did you underestimate your cardiac risk?”
I’ve come to learn that a common reaction to a heart attack is others’ utter shock that this could happen to “YOU, OF ALL PEOPLE!” Women in particular report reactions like this because, generally speaking, we’re used to being the strong glue that holds our family life and relationships together.
How dare we get sick. . . . . . Continue reading “How could YOU – of all people! – have a heart attack?”
I encounter a lot of patient stories from my Heart Sisters blog readers here, as well as from the women who raise a hand during my Heart-Smart Women public presentations. A heart patient’s story can at first kick off with a profound this-can’t-be-happening-to-me sense of disbelief as we try to make sense out of something that makes no sense at all. Telling the story to others helps us do this at first. “How did this happen?” demand our worried family and friends while we lie there, overwhelmed. And thus our storytelling begins. . . Continue reading “Change your story, change the storyteller”
My interest in women’s misdiagnosed heart attacks began after my own misdiagnosed heart attack. Despite textbook cardiac symptoms of central chest pain, nausea, profuse sweating and pain down my left arm, I was confidently told: “You’re in the right demographic for acid reflux!” – and sent home from the Emergency Department.
I know that, had I been appropriately diagnosed and treated on that fateful day, I’d have little interest in this topic. But I wasn’t. So I do. . . Continue reading “Women’s heart attacks (still!) more likely misdiagnosed than men’s”
Over the years, I’ve had to teach myself the bare bone basics of interpreting cardiac studies. I’m certainly no research scientist (although I did spend 20 years of my life with one – does that count at all?) but I can tell you that one good place I like to start is the methodology section of any study.
Wait! Don’t leave yet! I know, I know, this may seem crushingly dull. But the methods info is how I learned, for example, that out of over 5,000 participants recruited for the $100 million ISCHEMIA study in 2019, only 23 per cent were women. At the time, I offered a helpful editing suggestion to the Washington Post about their sensational coverage of ISCHEMIA (“Stents and Bypass Surgery are No More Effective Than Drugs!!” ) by requesting this important clarifier added to the end of that headline: “FOR MEN!” . . Continue reading “Cardiac research and the mystery of the missing facts”