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 was surprised to learn after surviving my own heart attack that cardiac events like mine may take 20-30 years to actually show up. In other words, I didn’t have a heart attack because I ate a piece of bacon or had a stressful day at work. I had a heart attack because something – likely decades earlier – had damaged the delicate endothelial cells lining my coronary arteries. . . . . Continue reading “Heart disease: decades in the making”
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”
It seems a cruel irony: the very thing that may have saved your life after a frightening cancer diagnosis is the same thing that can ultimately endanger your heart. I first heard of the known link between cancer treatments and later heart disease when I was a text editor of the palliative care textbook called Medical Care of the Dying.1 I learned about patients with end-stage heart disease caused by their cancer treatments – sometimes decades earlier. . .
Continue reading “When cancer treatment damages your heart”
This editorial, “What Women (and Clinicians) Don’t Know Hurts Them“, originally appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. As a woman with heart disease, I wanted to immediately read it to find out what might be hurting me.
But as is common practice in most medical journals, this editorial was behind a paywall, so it was not available for heart patients like me, or anybody else who wasn’t a subscriber to the journal.
I could pay a fee of $35 for the privilege of reading this one article, but the reality is that I can’t afford to pay for articles that aren’t being published in what’s known as an open access journal.* Continue reading “MDs often tell women to lose weight rather than address cardiac risk factors”