Tag Archives: atrial fibrillation

Dear Carolyn: “I’m having the time of my life!”

6 May

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

As part of my Dear Carolyn series of posts featuring my readers’ unique stories on what it’s like to become a heart patient, this one involves a woman with not one but several medical diagnoses. When distressing symptoms were initially diagnosed by her oncologist as lymphoedema (a condition sometimes associated with cancer treatments), her first response was: My future looks positively bleak.” But when she finally heard the corrected diagnosis of heart failure from an internal medicine specialist one year following her chemo treatments and radiation, her surprising reaction was this:

“I just about hugged the internist when he told me it wasn’t lymphoedema after all – it was just my heart!  I thought he’d given me my life back again. And he had! Like receiving my own Magna Carta. And in a single week, with the help of my new cardiac medications, off came the 30 extra pounds of fluid I’d been hauling around.”

That was certainly a first for me (somebody thrilled by a heart failure diagnosis!?) Today’s Dear Carolyn letter focuses on a favourite subject of mine: resilience in the face of a medical crisis, and it starts with a woman known to us simply as Honey BeeContinue reading

Hair loss and heart meds

7 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

Did you know that most of us normally shed 50 to 100 hairs a day from our heads? According to Mayo Clinic experts, this usually doesn’t cause noticeable thinning of our scalp hair, however, because new hair is growing in at the same time. Hair loss actually occurs when this cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted for some reason. It’s thought to be related to one or more factors like family history, hormonal changes, medical conditions, or medications.

It was this last factor that caught my attention.  I read recently about a list of medications commonly prescribed to heart patients that may also be linked to the distressing side effect of hair loss – especially since I’ve been noticing with some alarm that my own hair seems to be thinning at a scary rate! Continue reading

Premenopausal women and cardiac symptoms

23 Jul
by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

Most of you throughout your adolescent and adult lives have no doubt observed that hormone fluctuations during a menstrual cycle can affect certain body parts on certain days of that cycle. These fluctuations cause symptoms ranging from bloating to cramps, vivid dreams, fatigue, acne breakouts, food cravings, or irritability. (That word ‘irritability’ is doctor-speak to describe the act of threatening spouses with homicide if they leave that freakin’ toilet seat up one more time…)

For decades, scientists have also observed that women’s risk of heart attack increases after menopause. One theory for this age-related delay (compared to male heart patients, who generally tend to have their heart attacks a decade or so before we do) was the drop in female hormones at menopause, particularly estrogen. That timing seemed to intuitively make sense. Estrogen levels go down, heart attack rates go up. It’s why physicians believed for a long time that hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women could actually prevent heart attacks. (PLEASE NOTE: it doesn’t.*) Continue reading

Does your hospital have a Women’s Heart Clinic yet? If not, why not?

16 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

teacup-heartFocused Cardiovascular Care for Women is the name of an important report about women’s heart health published in February of this year. One of the report’s highlights (or lowlights!) was that very few if any hospitals actually offered focused cardiac care specifically for women before the year 2000.(1) One reason for this may have been that, as the report’s authors explained, “the concept of Women’s Heart Clinics was met with hesitation from many cardiologists.”

Yes, you read that right, ladies. Until recently, even the very idea of establishing a heart clinic devoted to the unique realities of the female body was not warmly welcomed by the very physicians you’d think would be most supportive.  Continue reading

Dr. John Mandrola: “AFib is your body talking to you”

10 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

If you or somebody you care about has been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (AF),  you likely already know this about the diagnosis: it’s an irregular heart rhythm affecting the heart’s upper chambers (the right and left atria) – and it’s also the most common heart-related reason for hospital admission. As Kentucky cardiologist Dr. John Mandrola likes to describe the disorder:

“AF is both a disease and a consequence of actions. It’s your body talking to you.”

Dr. John is a bike racer and one of my favourite writers in cardiology. As my heart sister Jaynie Martz once sized up his writing: “concise, charming, compassionately light, adult-to-adult, uber-digestible with nary a whiff of condescension or pomposity.” Amen, Jaynie.  His particular cardiac specialty is electrophysiology, the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders. Here’s his overall take on the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, as delivered to a Utah conference of his fellow electrophysiologists recently: Continue reading