Guess which woman in this photo is having a heart attack

19 Jun
This week: a terrific guest post by Linda Johns, librarian at Seattle Public Library by day and writer of children’s books (including the Hannah West mystery series) before and after work. Originally published on June 4, 2016 on Linda’s self-titled blog.

I am having a heart attack in this photo. But look at who I'm surrounded by -- friends and writers. Love these women! Kirsten Kittscher, Kiry Larson, Suzanne Selfors, Sara Nickerson, Jennifer Longo.

Can you tell which author in this group photo* taken at a Seattle book event was experiencing heart attack symptoms while this photo was being taken? Me neither. Read on to solve the mystery as told by Linda Johns – which reminds us that heart disease can strike any of us at any time, an equal-opportunity medical crisis. 

  ♥  ♥  ♥ Continue reading

Social isolation/loneliness is hurting your heart

12 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

heart-1244507_1920 copyIn the last few years of her life, my siblings and I had reached the point where we knew it was time to move our elderly widowed mother into a residence for seniors. Already showing signs of dementia and no longer safe to remain on her own in her large home, she had become increasingly miserable. She didn’t want to change anything, however, and we worried that she would hate this disruptive move into her new two-bedroom assisted living suite.

So we were thrilled shortly after her first week there when she excitedly told us about the nice new people she’d already met, all of the fun group activities scheduled each day, and the red blouse she had picked out to wear to the annual Valentine’s Day party that the staff were organizing later that week. She seemed to be happier and more alert than she had been in a long time.

Preventing social isolation is particularly important, not just to those moving into seniors’ homes, but to every aging Baby Boomer no matter where we happen to live – and particularly because of the startling link between social isolation, loneliness and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Continue reading

How two cardiologists discovered Type A

5 Jun

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 6.27.14 AM

Taken from the desk of a patient who suffered a fatal heart attack while rushing to catch the 5:43 pm train*

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

Back in 1959, cardiologists Drs. Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman submitted a research paper to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Their study was accepted and published; it suggested a correlation between coronary artery disease and those living with “overt behavior pattern A” – a link the co-authors claimed was as significant as smoking, cholesterol and high blood pressure.(1)  Their subsequent best selling book Type A Behavior And Your Heart in 1974 prompted further studies by other researchers, and soon “Type A personality” became a popular term in our everyday conversations. The name described people who exhibit personality traits like hostility, impatience, competitiveness, drive, perfectionism and an unhealthy dependence on external rewards.

But it turns out it was a sharp-eyed secretary in their medical practice who first brought this potential link to their attention. Continue reading

Why patients hate the C-word

29 May

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

Way back in 1847, the American Medical Association panel on ethics decreed that “the patient should obey the physician.” 

There may very well be physicians today – in the era of empowered patients and patient-centred care and those darned Medical Googlers – who glance nostalgically backwards at those good old days.

Let’s consider, for example, the simple clinical interaction of prescribing medication.  If you reliably take the daily meds that your doctor has prescribed for your high blood pressure, you’ll feel fine.  But if you stop taking your medication, you’ll still feel fine.  At least, until you suffer a stroke or heart attack or any number of consequences that have been linked to untreated hypertension.

Those who do obediently take their meds are what doctors call “compliant”. And, oh. Have I mentioned how much many patients like me hate that word? 

Continue reading

Don’t take this personally, Doc…

22 May

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

modern-art-1127794_1280 copy Do you remember me telling you the story of my earliest signs of patient empowerment? That story was about the day I decided, at the feisty age of five, to fight back against our family doctor during his house call to our little bungalow on Pleasant Avenue.  My totally out-of-character childhood revolt was launched when I overheard Dr. Zaritsky tell my mother that he’d have to give me a needle to fix what was ailing me – and that he’d have to pull down my pajama bottoms to aim the needle just so into my bare bum. But I was having none of it, as I described here:

“I wept. I screamed. I struggled. I tried to run away from him. I think I may have even punched Dr. Zaritsky right in the stomach – until I finally ended up exhausted, sobbing and humiliated, face-down on the chesterfield, essentially calf-roped into submission by two exasperated adults.

“In hindsight, I’m indeed amazed that I actually somehow found it within my (very sick) little 5-year old spunky self to try to fight off a great big doctor who, in our home, was a man second only to Pope Pius XII in terms of authority and reverence.

To speak or act so disrespectfully to the wonderful Dr. Zaritsky – or to any physician – would have been inexcusably bad behaviour in my family. But meanwhile, in a foreign country far, far away from Pleasant Avenue (i.e. in the United States of America), the stirrings of an even bigger patient revolution were simmering.  Continue reading

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