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

Is ‘being nice’ hurting women?

30 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    September 30, 2018

Imagine the reaction from Emergency Department staff to the woman I met at my Mayo Clinic training, the one who had been sent home from Emergency three days in a row despite her complaints of increasingly distressing cardiac symptoms. Each time she arrived there, she clearly declared the following to the Emergency physician, who continued to repeatedly dismiss her concerns:

“I don’t care what you say. SOMETHING is wrong with me!”

What a royal pain in the ass, staff may have muttered about her, sotto voce.

On her third visit, the physician recommended anti-anxiety medications. But on the fourth visit, on that fourth day, she was taken directly from the E.R. to the O.R. to undergo emergency coronary bypass surgery. Continue reading

The bumpy road between diagnosis and getting better

23 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    September 23, 2018

bridge-2490738_1280You probably already know that it can be a scary road indeed leading from the moment you hear that initial diagnosis until the day you are able to start thinking of yourself as a person first, who just happens to be a patient. Until then, it’s a bumpy road with often more downs than ups, as I’ve written about here, here and here, for example. But researchers in Spain now suggest that there are actually four distinct stages that are predictably common among most patients on that road. Continue reading

Our cardiac meds – in real life, not just in studies

16 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    September 16, 2018

If you – like me – have had a heart attack, you are now likely taking a fistful of medications each morning, everything from anti-platelet drugs to help prevent a new blockage from forming inside your metal stent to meds that can help lower your blood pressure. All of these cardiac drugs have been studied by researchers before being approved by government regulators as being safe and effective for us to take every day.

But one particular study on this subject published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology(1) raised a unique point:

“Little is known about the benefits and risks of longterm use of cardiovascular drugs. Clinical trials rarely go beyond a few years of follow-up, but patients are often given continuous treatment with multiple drugs well into old age.”  

Continue reading

Hypervigilance: waiting for that second heart attack

9 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters    September 9, 2018

511724-0211-23Until I had a heart attack, I didn’t know that one of the biggest risk factors for having a cardiac event like mine is having already had one. Heart disease, a chronic and progressive diagnosis, is the gift that keeps on giving. And as I wrote here, one of the Big Lessons for me has been that, although my doctors can “squish blockages, burn rogue electrical circuits, and implant lifesaving devices”, their heroic efforts do not address what originally caused this damage to my coronary arteries in the first place – likely decades before my heart attack struck.  See also: The Cure Myth

In fact, women are twice as likely to have a second heart attack in the six years following the first compared to our male counterparts.(1)  No wonder sobering stats like this can drive the freshly-diagnosed heart patient to an exhausting and fearful state of acute hypervigilance. Continue reading