Dear Carolyn: “Did I have a ‘real’ heart attack?”

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     July 8, 2018

As part of my occasional Dear Carolyn series featuring my readers’ unique narratives about how they became heart patients, I offer today a medical mystery from an Oregon reader. After dueling physicians differed in their opinions of her diagnosis, Lynn Bay now wonders if she actually did have a “real” heart attack, as one of them had diagnosed. Her story may seem familiar to you if you’ve ever had your medical experience dismissed or minimized. Here’s Lynn’s story, with her permission: Continue reading “Dear Carolyn: “Did I have a ‘real’ heart attack?””

Excuse me while I bang my head against this wall…

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

Last week, the disturbing results of a study on women and heart disease were released, attracting media headlines like Women and Heart Disease: New Data Reaffirms Lack of Awareness By Women and Physicians. I had to go have a wee lie-down after I read this paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.(1)

The study’s lead author, cardiologist Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, of Cedars Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, announced that “increasing awareness of cardiovascular disease in women has stalled with no major progress in almost 10 years”, and (far more intensely disturbing, in my opinion): “Little progress has been made in the last decade in increasing physician awareness or use of evidence-based guidelines to care for female heart patients.”

No wonder I had to lie down. But taking to one’s bed in response to yet another discouraging study about cardiology’s gender gap is no longer enough. Perhaps it’s time for female heart patients like me to simply throw our collective hands in the air while banging our heads against the nearest wall. Continue reading “Excuse me while I bang my head against this wall…”

Misdiagnosis: the perils of “unwarranted certainty”

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Until being misdiagnosed with indigestion in mid-heart attack, I generally trusted that all people with the letters M.D. after their names knew what they were talking about when diagnosing serious medical problems. That was long before I tracked down a study(1) reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that women under the age of 55 who are experiencing a heart attack are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed and sent home from the E.R. compared to their male counterparts presenting with identical symptoms.

And that’s why I now find Dr. Jerome Groopman’s landmark book, How Doctors Think, so illuminating.  It should be required reading for all med school students.  Continue reading “Misdiagnosis: the perils of “unwarranted certainty””

The sad reality of women’s heart disease hits home

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I’m nicely settled back home now after a few days across the pond in beautiful Vancouver, where I was covering the 64th Annual Canadian Cardiovascular Congress there for Heart Sisters readers.

My favourite things about this trip: the weather, walking the Vancouver sea wall, the mountains, the divine heart-smart food, the fabulously helpful Heart and Stroke Foundation staff at the Media Centre, and the fact that I somehow managed to p-a-c-e myself most days while trying to take care of my heart.

My least favourite thing: out of over 700 scientific papers presented at this conference, I could count on one hand those that focused even remotely on women’s heart disease. My question is: why? Continue reading “The sad reality of women’s heart disease hits home”

14 reasons to be glad you’re a man when you’re having a heart attack

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

I just finished reading a truly weird rant on another website, written by a man decrying the “sexism” of our society because all of our male doctors are now focused only on women’s heart disease – while apparently ignoring men completely.

It would surely be the fantasy dream of every woman heart attack survivor if this man were actually telling the truth about all that attention women’s heart disease is allegedly attracting.  The frightening reality instead is that since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease. In fact, the gap between men and women’s cardiac survival continues to widen.

In the interests of enlightening the unconscious among us about All Things Cardiac, I am happy to point out an assortment of gender differences if you find yourself having a heart attack:  Continue reading “14 reasons to be glad you’re a man when you’re having a heart attack”

Women’s cardiac care: is it gender difference – or gender bias?

woman man novelties

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

At the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium last fall, Mayo Clinic cardiologists told us that, when it comes to women, heart disease is much more than an equal opportunity health threat.  Women with heart disease are underdiagnosed (and undertreated even when accurately diagnosed) compared to men presenting with the same condition.  And we also have more deadly outcomes compared to men.

Did you know that more women than men die of heart disease each year in North America? What I found particularly appalling was a 2005 American Heart Association study that found only 8% of family doctors were aware of this fact, and (even worse!) only 17% of cardiologists were aware.

Here are some other examples that may help to explain gender bias in diagnosis and treatment of women’s heart disease: Continue reading “Women’s cardiac care: is it gender difference – or gender bias?”