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Premenopausal women and cardiac symptoms

23 Jul
by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

Most of you throughout your adolescent and adult lives have no doubt observed that hormone fluctuations during a menstrual cycle can affect certain body parts on certain days of that cycle. These fluctuations cause symptoms ranging from bloating to cramps, vivid dreams, fatigue, acne breakouts, food cravings, or irritability. (That word ‘irritability’ is doctor-speak to describe the act of threatening spouses with homicide if they leave that freakin’ toilet seat up one more time…)

For decades, scientists have also observed that women’s risk of heart attack increases after menopause. One theory for this age-related delay (compared to male heart patients, who generally tend to have their heart attacks a decade or so before we do) was the drop in female hormones at menopause, particularly estrogen. That timing seemed to intuitively make sense. Estrogen levels go down, heart attack rates go up. It’s why physicians believed for a long time that hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women could actually prevent heart attacks. (PLEASE NOTE: it doesn’t.*) Continue reading

Excuse me while I bang my head against this wall…

2 Jul
by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters
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Last week, the disturbing results of a study on women and heart disease were released, attracting media headlines like Women and Heart Disease: New Data Reaffirms Lack of Awareness By Women and Physicians. I had to go have a wee lie-down after I read this paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.(1)

The study’s lead author, cardiologist Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, of Cedars Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, announced that “increasing awareness of cardiovascular disease in women has stalled with no major progress in almost 10 years”, and (far more intensely disturbing, in my opinion): “little progress has been made in the last decade in increasing physician awareness or use of evidence-based guidelines to care for female heart patients.”

No wonder I had to lie down. But taking to one’s bed in response to yet another discouraging study about cardiology’s gender gap is no longer enough. Perhaps it’s time for female heart patients like me to simply throw our collective hands in the air while banging our heads against the nearest wall. Continue reading

Six lessons Emmi learned from her Hollywood Heart Attack

28 May

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Emmi S. Herman is the mother of three millennials and grandmother of two perfect grandchildren. As the grandmother of one perfect child (our adorable Everly Rose), I can relate. I can especially relate to her because, like Emmi, I too survived what doctors call the “widow maker” heart attack (a misnomer that really needs fixing given how many women I know who have survived it. Physicians don’t, for example, call this serious cardiac event the “widower” maker, do they?)  Emmi is a children’s book author with expertise in early literacy skills. When not writing copy at her day job or at work on a memoir about her sister, she is in her car somewhere between New York and New Jersey. Here’s how she describes the six important lessons she learned about having a heart attack.  Continue reading

European women face the same cardiac gender gap we do

21 May

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I’m interested in women’s heart health, and because my Heart Sisters blog readers come from all parts of the world (in 190 countries at last count), that interest isn’t aimed only at women’s shared experiences here in North America where I live. As the World Heart Federation tells us, heart disease is the #1 global health threat to women everywhere on the planet.

Researchers know that the cardiac gender gap we worry about here is distressingly similar to what women around the world face, too. Here’s how one European cardiologist describes how she views this gap for the women where she lives:  Continue reading

The “big disconnect” in women’s heart health

7 May

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

hearts sunday_link_loveDr. Holly Andersen is a New York cardiologist who once told a Clinton Health Matters conference audience how frustrating it feels when she is able to impact only the women who come in to see her. She believes that increasing public awareness of heart disease can save lives, and this must start with women. Dr. Holly likes to say that “if you can educate a woman, you educate the family.” Here’s her sobering take on what she calls the “big disconnect” in women’s heart disease awareness, prevention and treatment: * Continue reading