When heart disease isn’t your biggest problem

                                                    .           by Carolyn Thomas      

I did not see this coming.   I’d always thought that it would be heart disease that would do me in.  A year ago, when I noticed a deep pain at the base of each thumb, I figured I must have somehow injured (both) hands at the same time. When the pain got so bad I could no longer push-and-twist open the child-proof caps on the bottles of my cardiac meds, I asked my pharmacist to use easy-open caps for my drug prescriptions from now on. It took a while before the gnarled finger joints of both hands began to swell until they now resemble those of the Wicked Witch of the West.

I remember looking at my outstretched fingers one morning and wondering, “Whose hands ARE these?”       .    Continue reading “When heart disease isn’t your biggest problem”

Your health care decisions: don’t worry your pretty little head over them

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

My mother, like many women of her generation, would never dream of telling her doctor that she wants a second medical opinion, even if she suspected that her doctor’s treatment or advice was lacking. This means that, if he were negligent or incompetent or even downright dangerous – which he’s not, by the way –  my mother would rather die than get a second opinion. To ask for one would be rude and insulting to her physician, and that just would never happen.  Whatever her doctor says  goes unquestioned. He is the boss of her health care.

She’s not alone. Many patients choose to simply defer to their physicians, even when that physician is not providing comprehensive information about diagnosis or treatment options. As orthopedic surgeon Dr. Howard Luks described some of his colleagues:

“Time is short for doctors, they often have biases, and many assume patients don’t want the burden of overwhelming information.”

Before my own heart attack, I could have been one of those patients, too. When my doctor ordered lab tests for me, for example, I figured that if the results were bad, I would be phoned.  Otherwise, I was much too busy to even think about them.

And now when I ask the women in my heart health audiences to raise their hands if they know their blood pressure numbers, it’s common to see at least 1/3 of the group who have absolutely no clue.  And when I ask them if they know their cholesterol numbers, the awareness level is even worse.

A 2008 study of women over 40 done by The Federation of Medical Women of Canada (called the LIPSTICK Survey) reported that women spend more time thinking about their weight than they do about their hearts. Only 10% of women surveyed, for example, knew their personal cardiac risk factors, versus 64% of women who know how much they weighed in high school. Continue reading “Your health care decisions: don’t worry your pretty little head over them”