Size matters – but not in coronary artery blockages

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

It’s not about your cholesterol numbers, and it’s not even about big fat blockages clogging up your coronary arteries. Did you know that inflammation is likely the culprit in most heart attacks? As cardiologist Dr. John Mandrola neatly describes it:

“Heart disease is about inflammation.  The same mechanisms that cause the throat to swell from an infection, the skin to redden after an insect bite, and a scar to form after a cut are what cause heart problems.”

Studies continue to show demonstrable links between heart disease and other inflammatory conditions.
Continue reading “Size matters – but not in coronary artery blockages”

Women and statins: evidence-based medicine or wishful thinking?

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Are you:

A.  a healthy woman who’s never had any issues with your heart, but . . .

B you know heart disease is the #1 killer of women, so . . .

C.  you’re wondering what you can do to help prevent B from happening to you?

Warding off a first heart attack is what physicians call “primary prevention”. It’s also what respected cardiologists representing both the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology are now telling us can be effectively accomplished by taking one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins.

But it turns out that many other equally-respected cardiologists don’t believe that taking a powerful drug every day for the rest of your natural life for a disease you don’t even have is appropriate for primary prevention – particularly in womenContinue reading “Women and statins: evidence-based medicine or wishful thinking?”

Dr. John Mandrola: “AFib is your body talking to you”

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

If you or somebody you care about has been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (AF),  you likely already know this about the diagnosis: it’s an irregular heart rhythm affecting the heart’s upper chambers (the right and left atria) – and it’s also the most common heart-related reason for hospital admission. As Kentucky cardiologist Dr. John Mandrola likes to describe the disorder:

“AF is both a disease and a consequence of actions. It’s your body talking to you.”

Dr. John is a bike racer and one of my favourite writers in cardiology. As my heart sister Jaynie Martz once sized up his writing: “concise, charming, compassionately light, adult-to-adult, uber-digestible with nary a whiff of condescension or pomposity.” Amen, Jaynie.  His particular cardiac specialty is electrophysiology, the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders. Here’s his overall take on the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, as delivered to a Utah conference of his fellow electrophysiologists recently: Continue reading “Dr. John Mandrola: “AFib is your body talking to you””

Stress test vs flipping a coin: which is more accurate?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

You may not have any signs or symptoms of coronary artery disease while you are just sitting there quietly reading this post. In fact, your symptoms may occur only during exertion, as narrowed arteries struggle to carry enough blood to feed a heart muscle that’s screaming for oxygen under increased demand. Enter the diagnostic stress test, used to mimic the cardiac effects of exercise to assess your risk of coronary artery disease.

During stress testing, you exercise (walk/run on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike) to make your heart work harder and beat faster.  An EKG (also called ECG) is recorded while you exercise to monitor any abnormal changes in your heart under stress, with or without the aid of medications to enhance this effect.

But consider this blunt warning from Dr. Kevin Klauer:   Continue reading “Stress test vs flipping a coin: which is more accurate?”

The cure myth

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

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.”  Continue reading “The cure myth”

ICD warning: defective defibrillator leads recalled

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

It’s nail-biting time for hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide who have had a Riata defibrillator implanted next to their hearts (79,000 in the U.S., 5,300 in Canada, 4,000 in Australia – just for starters). The recent news about the Riata recall might feel like being told you now have a ticking time bomb inside your chest. Trouble is, you just don’t know if that time bomb will start firing when it shouldn’t, or fail to fire in time to resuscitate your heart when it should.

And worse, neither does your doctor.

In December 2011, following reports of premature erosion of the insulation around the electrical conductor lead wires in these devices, the FDA ordered an urgent Class 1 recall (the most serious type of recall) of all Riata and Riata ST Silicone Endocardial Defibrillation Leads manufactured by St. Jude Medical Inc.  Here is the FDA recommendation to all patients with these Riata devices implanted in their bodies:*    Continue reading “ICD warning: defective defibrillator leads recalled”