It was 10 a.m. sharp when I walked into the gym where my cardiac rehabilitation classes were about to begin. The group’s coordinator was a friendly former cardiac nurse who now spent her mornings with freshly-diagnosed heart patients in the rehab program. She greeted me warmly, and toured me around the facility, introducing me to my fellow cardiac rehab buddies. And “fellow” was the apt word: it turned out that in that particular class, I was the only female heart patient in a gym filled with men. Old men. Old men who all happened to be golfers – which I would soon learn was the sole topic of their conversations. My initial reaction was: “Do I belong here?” . . Continue reading ““Do I belong here?” Unintended barriers to cardiac rehabilitation”
In the game of poker, zero sum game theory suggests that the sum of the amounts won by some players equals the combined losses of the others. So if one player wins big, then other players must lose big.
It struck me recently that it’s possible our healthcare system functions as if it were a zero sum game, too.
Continue reading “Women’s heart health: why it’s NOT a zero sum game”
Cardiologist Dr. Sharonne Hayes, founder of the Mayo Women’s Heart Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has this important advice for all heart patients:
“If your doctor recommends cardiac rehabilitation, go.
“If you’re not referred, ask.
“And if you ask, and are told ‘You don’t need it’ – find a new cardiologist!”
Based on what we already know about the shockingly low rates of physician referral to this life-saving treatment (as low as 20% of all eligible heart patients) we might expect a flurry of doctor dumping if heart patients follow Dr. Sharonne’s advice to seek out physicians who are more appropriately informed. Continue reading “The surprising reasons heart patients don’t go to cardiac rehab”
Once discharged from hospital following my heart attack, I was gobsmacked by how physically frail I felt. Simply taking a shower meant a 20-minute lie down to recover. Just walking to the corner with my son, Ben, required me to clutch his arm for support. But it wasn’t only this new weakness that alarmed me. As a former distance runner, I felt suddenly afraid of any exertion that might bring on the horrific heart attack symptoms I’d so recently endured. That’s where cardiac rehabilitation (a 2-4 month supervised exercise and education program for heart patients) literally saved me. Continue reading “Do we need to change the name of cardiac rehab?”
I like to tell my women’s heart health presentation audiences that, if you’re going to have a heart attack, you should really try to have one here in Victoria, British Columbia – or in any other city that boasts a healthy ratio of cardiologists-per-square-city-block.
My theory on this is that cardiologists, just like the rest of us, want to raise their families in a charming historic town with good schools, good restaurants, good shopping, fun night life, live theatre, sports teams, 200 km of cycling trails, a symphony orchestra, picture-postcard ocean/forest/mountain scenery, and a near-perfect coastal climate allowing them to garden or play golf 12 months a year. If this town also has a major university and a good-sized teaching hospital that attracts both students and cardiac researchers, that’s also going to go a long way in appealing to cardiologists. You’re welcome, Tourism Victoria . . . Continue reading “Why you should hug your cardiologist today”
Let’s consider today the last of The Four Stages of Heart Illness as outlined by Dr. Wayne Sotile, a cardiac psychologist from North Carolina and author of the highly recommended book called Thriving With Heart Disease. This book is a helpful guide for both survivors and their families on “how to heal and reclaim your lives”.
One important way to do this is to review the heart patient’s journey through a series of four “separate, identifiable stages” that may help you know what to expect along this journey. (Links to the first three stages can be found at the bottom of this post).
Stage 4: Learning to Live With Heart Disease – Patient and family have accepted the diagnosis and committed themselves to living with the illness, not in spite of it.
Dr. Sotile reminds us that most survivors take between 6-12 months to get somewhat comfortable with their new, heart-healthy way of life (that may not mean totally comfortable, but on the way to comfortable).
But even after that first year, you won’t be completely adjusted to your new way of life. As heart disease lasts a lifetime, so does its adjustment period for both patients and their families.
It’s a big transition to your ‘new normal‘. Remember that a large part of the transition is learning to talk to the people you love and live with about what you’re going through, what you feel for one another, and what life is really about. Continue reading “Learning to live with heart disease: the fourth stage of heart attack recovery”