The Sitting-Rising Test: what’s your score?

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Back when I was a run leader at the Y Marathon Running Clinic, we’d have an overflow crop of eager new participants at our first Sunday morning run of each New Year. Some even told me that this was finally going to be the year in which they quit smoking, lost 30 pounds, and ran a marathon! “Pick one!” was my pragmatic response to such announcements . . .     Continue reading “The Sitting-Rising Test: what’s your score?”

Failure to refer: why are doctors ignoring cardiac rehab?

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

Anne-Marie felt nervous after she was discharged from hospital following triple bypass surgery. She had only her immediate family to help her at home. And as she described:

“I felt like I fell through the cracks. When I left the hospital, my husband was given a sick woman in a wheelchair and a big bag of pills. I had heard about cardiac rehabilitation, so I followed up to see if I could join a program as I thought this could help me get back on my feet.

“But I was told they would get back to me. When they finally did – 15 weeks after my operation – I was already back at work, so couldn’t attend. I wasn’t offered any other alternative.”

When the British Heart Foundation’s National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation report was published, a blunt analysis by their auditors concluded that “cardiac rehabilitation remains a Cinderella service.” 

But the grim reality is hardly less Cinderella-ish on this side of the pond. And the reason so many freshly-diagnosed heart patients like Anne-Marie are falling through the cracks lies squarely with the doctors who are failing to refer their patients to cardiac rehab. Continue reading “Failure to refer: why are doctors ignoring cardiac rehab?”

Why you should hug your cardiologist today

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

hugI 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”

Why your heart needs work – not rest! – after a heart attack

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

After surviving a heart attack, I couldn’t wait to start my 4-month cardiac rehabilitation program so I would just start feeling “normal” again. But when I showed up for my first assessment, I was disappointed by the cardiac nurse’s recommendation that, because of ongoing issues, I should wait two months until I felt much stronger before starting. A Canadian study from the University of Alberta now suggests, however, that earlier might just be better for many.

For best results in most clinically stable patients after a heart attack, these new findings suggest that early exercise as well as prolonged exercise may well be the key to the best post-heart attack outcomes.  Continue reading “Why your heart needs work – not rest! – after a heart attack”

“I’m not depressed!” – and other ways we deny the stigma of mental illness after a heart attack

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

“This is the most thorough review article I have seen on psychological interventions after heart events,” writes cardiac psychologist Dr. Stephen Parker* about a U.K. study on heart patients. And he should know. Dr. Steve is also a heart attack survivor himself who has explored his own profound experiences with the depression and anxiety that commonly accompany any cardiac event.

The study, reported in the British Journal of Cardiology in July 2010, followed over 400 London heart patients for two years – of whom at least half showed symptoms of anxiety or depression when first interviewed.  But the study authors described their participants in this way:

“Many of these heart patients were reluctant to accept a diagnosis of anxiety or depression and expressed reservations to the clinical psychologist by rejecting the term ‘depression’ for describing their problems, or by expressing negative views about attending a mental health service for treatment.”

In fact, these ‘negative views’ associated with the stigma of having mental health problems were so strong that all psychological interventions studied were provided to heart patients as part of a scheduled Cardiac Rehabilitation program at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London – instead of at a mental health facility.   Continue reading ““I’m not depressed!” – and other ways we deny the stigma of mental illness after a heart attack”