Tag Archives: awareness of heart disease

The “big disconnect” in women’s heart health

7 May

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

hearts sunday_link_loveDr. Holly Andersen is a New York cardiologist who once told a Clinton Health Matters conference audience how frustrating it feels when she is able to impact only the women who come in to see her. She believes that increasing public awareness of heart disease can save lives, and this must start with women. Dr. Holly likes to say that “if you can educate a woman, you educate the family.” Here’s her sobering take on what she calls the “big disconnect” in women’s heart disease awareness, prevention and treatment: * Continue reading

6 reasons women delay seeking medical help – even in mid-heart attack

20 Dec

by Carolyn Thomas @HeartSisters

I finally realized that I was in big trouble during a five-hour flight from Ottawa to Vancouver. But I’d been told emphatically by an Emergency Department physician two weeks earlier that my symptoms were just from acid reflux – and had nothing to do with my heart.

So for two weeks, I’d endured increasingly debilitating episodes of chest pain, sweating, nausea and pain radiating down my left arm. But hey! – at least I knew it wasn’t my heart. A man with the letters M.D. after his name had told me so. Continue reading

Are you a heart attack waiting to happen?

29 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I was asked last year by a large U.S. publisher to review a new book written by a woman who had recently become a heart patient. I enjoyed reading the first chapter or two until I came to the New York author’s dramatic story of the actual cardiac event itself. The part that left me gobsmacked was not the event, but her abject shock and disbelief that she (of all people!) could be experiencing a heart attack at all.  The pervasive “Why me? Why me?” focus in this chapter clearly ignored a reality that the author had somehow chosen to gloss over: she’d been a heavy smoker for several decades.

Don’t get me wrong. Any cardiac event is indeed a traumatic occurrence no matter who and when it strikes. Sometimes, we truly have no hint about the cause of said event. And my immediate gut reaction was not meant to mock this author, or minimize her experience (which was awful). 

But I felt honestly surprised that she was surprised. Here was an intelligent, educated woman who’d been actively and relentlessly engaged year after year after year in one of the most well-known and downright dangerous risk factors for cardiovascular disease out there yet she’s surprised?

Cigarette smoking is considered the most important preventable cause of premature death in North America. So how is it even possible she would not know this? How is it possible that she would have no clue that her heavy smoking was damaging her heart? Continue reading

Heart disease: “You’ve come a long way, baby!” – or have you?

7 Apr

Over the past decade, studies have suggested that almost twice as many women are now aware that heart disease is our leading cause of death. But awareness of this fact is still disturbingly low. For example, when cardiologist Dr. Lori Mosca of Columbia University Medical Center surveyed 2,300 women to measure their awareness of heart disease risk and to evaluate awareness trends since 1997, her results showed:

  • although awareness of heart disease has improved since 1997, one-third of women are still unaware that it is the leading cause of death in females
  • many women continue to believe that unproven therapies will reduce their heart disease risk
  • only about one-half of women said they would call 911 if they thought they were having symptoms of a heart attack, which Mosca said was “incredibly discouraging.” Continue reading

How doctors discovered that women have heart attacks, too

28 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

Following my heart attack, my family doctor told me that when she was in medical school, the type of heart attack that I’d had was called awidowmaker‘.

This was apparently because a 95% blockage like mine in this particular coronary artery was usually fatal, thus making the patient’s wife an instant widow. Please note the gender imbalance: men – the ones who could ‘make’ a ‘widow’  – were considered to be the ones suffering this kind of heart attack. Doctors don’t, for example, call it the widower maker . . .

Alas, there are still doctors who are unaware that, since 1984, more women than men die of heart disease each yearAn American Heart Association survey found that only 8% of physicians (and an even more appalling 17% of cardiologists!) actually knew that heart disease kills more women than men annually.

So I was intrigued to run across this chronological overview on Gender and Cardiovascular Disease on Medpedia showing how over the past four decades, the medical profession has gradually – and I do mean gradually – wisened up to the reality that heart disease is a woman’s disease, too.  Continue reading