One of the things I love most about writing this blog is hearing directly from my readers. I already knew that Heart Sisters attracts the smartest, funniest, and wisest readers ever, of course, but this comment from Charlotte in response to one of my articles really struck a chord for me. I’ve written before about this particular issue (i.e. why trotting out all those “inspiring” survivors to talk about their amazing post-recovery achievements can actually leave me feeling not so much inspired, but inadequate). Here’s how she says it so much better. (Thank you, Charlotte!) Continue reading
So a bunch of us, all heart disease survivors, were enjoying breakfast together one morning in Rochester, Minnesota. One of the women at our table looked up from her coffee and announced that, yes, even though she had survived a heart attack and subsequent open heart surgery, she didn’t really have heart disease anymore “you know, like the rest of you do.”
I looked at her and replied, in my most charitable tone:
“Honey, nobody gets invited to attend the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium for Women With Heart Disease here at Mayo Clinic unless they actually have, you know, heart disease.”
Her attitude of denial, I was to learn later, is not uncommon.
Heart Month (aka February) typically means a flurry of once-a-year media attention to the important subject of women’s heart health, so I like to take advantage of as many interview requests as I can every February. Strike while the iron’s hot! Make hay while the sun shines! Drink the glass of wine while it’s sitting right in front of you! Okay, that last rule I just made up…
One such interview request this year was from Media Planet’s 2016 Cardiovascular Health Campaign launched by Canada’s National Post newspaper and online. Here’s the text of that interview with Taylor Mihail of Media Planet. Continue reading
When my little sister Bev was booked to have her tonsils removed at age six, our family doctor declared that I must have mine out at the same time – not because there was anything at all wrong with them, but because I was already 12 years old and, for some inexplicable reason, I still had my tonsils intact! (Back then, kids with tonsils were apparently an endangered species. As New York ear/nose/throat specialist Dr. Steven Park described the historical take on tonsils: “In the 50s to 70s, it was a given that if you had tonsils, they were removed.”)
On our designated procedure date, Bev and I were admitted to the pediatric ward at St. Catharines’ Hotel Dieu Hospital together. I remember this experience vividly because the archaic rule at the Hotel Dieu back then was that all pediatric patients had to wear diapers overnight. DIAPERS! As a humiliated almost-teenager, I pleaded with my mother to convince the ward nurses that I most certainly did NOT need to wear diapers at my mature age! But rules were rules, and I somehow managed to survive both an unwarranted surgical procedure and its associated diaper humiliation.
It turns out I wasn’t the only person questioning the wisdom of taking out a perfectly fine pair of tonsils based on flimsy if any medical evidence. Decades later, many researchers – including in this U.K. study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood (1) – blamed not only the physicians who recommended the routine surgical removal of tonsils (and often adenoid glands at the same time) to treat childhood sore throat, but also “parental enthusiasm” as the factors influencing an entire generation of higher-than-necessary rates of surgery.
“Despite the enthusiasm with which tonsillectomy is offered and sought, there is little evidence of efficacy.”
I like this tonsil analogy to illustrate how medical attitudes, no matter how pervasive, can indeed change over time as our physicians rethink the status quo in order to embrace evidence-based medicine.
In other words, just because we’ve been doing this for a long time, is there any evidence that it’s actually what needs to be done?
We all know about prescribing. It’s what our docs do when they pull out the prescription pad so we can start or keep taking a specific drug for a specific medical reason.
But have you heard about deprescribing?
Basically, deprescribing happens when a health care professional decides to taper or stop recommending one or more prescription drugs for any given patient. The practice is aimed at minimizing what’s known as polypharmacy (that’s when adult patients are taking multiple medications at the same time) while at the same time improving patient outcomes.
What’s the problem with polypharmacy? Plenty, as it turns out.
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