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Dear Carolyn: “People can change for the better”

28 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    October 28, 2018

We know now that childhood trauma is strongly associated with chronic illness later on, including heart disease. As I wrote in a recent blog post about ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences), researchers warn us that scoring 4 or higher on the ACE test can predict a significantly higher risk of physical or mental illness as an adult. I was stunned when I took the test and saw that my own score was 4; I was well aware of my childhood experiences, of course, but I thought that only marginalized kids from desperately poor families were at high risk – and that wasn’t me! A history of psychological childhood abuse or neglect is not what we expect our doctors to ask us about – but this research suggests that maybe they should start.

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One response to that post really hit home for me. Marie (who prefers not to use her real name here) lives with a type of ischemic heart disease called coronary microvascular disease (as I do, too). With her kind permission, I’m sharing her childhood story with you as the latest guest post in my regular but very occasional series called Dear Carolyn“:

Oh, great. Another cardiac risk factor to worry about…

7 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    October 7, 2018

There are lots of cardiac risk factors that increase our chances of developing heart disease one day. Some are beyond our control (like having a family history) and many are not (like smoking or a sedentary lifestyle).

Some other risk factors are less familiar, so are often overlooked. Until two years after my heart attack, for example, I didn’t know that having pregnancy complications (like the preeclampsia I was diagnosed with while pregnant with my first baby) can mean women are 2-3 times more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease years later. But here’s a cardiac risk factor that was new to me until I learned about something called the ACE study. And this is a big one. Continue reading

Video

“Never been sick in my life” – so how could she have a stroke?

11 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

“The doctor showed me an x-ray of my brain. He pointed to a small spot and told me, ‘That’s where the blood vessel burst in your brain!’ It was surreal.”

My heart sister Dina Piersawl (affectionately known to some of us as Dee Mad Scientist) had just celebrated her 41st birthday when she survived an ischemic stroke. A professional scientist – and a former athlete and personal trainer in Chicago who describes herself as “never been sick in my life” – Dina sure didn’t look or feel like any stereotypical stroke patient you might imagine. Continue reading

It’s official! Housework is bad for your heart

15 Jan

Prepare yourself, ladies, for yet another news flash from the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious. . . A research team at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine tracked both male and female full-time workers, particularly the number of hours they worked outside the home, the work they did in the home, and the responsibility they felt for doing the housework.(1) They then examined the links between housework and health issues such as raised blood pressure. High blood pressure has long been identified as a risk factor in heart disease, so pay attention if you’re the person in your home who’s responsible for most of your housework. Continue reading

How these doctors have saved thousands of women

6 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas

A guest post by Dr. Annabelle Santos Volgman, McMullan-Eybel Chair for Excellence in Clinical Cardiology, Professor of Medicine, Rush College of Medicine, and Medical Director, Rush Heart Center for Women, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL; and Marissa Bergman, Associate Editor, Today’s Chicago Woman

“2013 was the first year since 1984 that fewer women died of heart disease than men(1)—despite being viewed as solely a man’s health issue. This decline was the result of the tireless work of a small group of women who have dedicated their lives to eradicating this misunderstanding and unequal treatment of women’s heart disease. Continue reading