MDs often tell women to lose weight rather than address cardiac risk factors

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters    March 31, 2019

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”

Dear Carolyn: “People can change for the better”

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…

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

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

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