The myth of the heart disease cure

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.” 

Her attitude of denial, I was to learn later, is not uncommon.
Continue reading “The myth of the heart disease cure”

Are you a heart attack waiting to happen?

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

woman screaming-5 I was asked last year by a large U.S. publisher to review a new book written by a woman who had recently become a heart patient. I enjoyed reading the first chapter or two until I came to the New York author’s dramatic story of the actual cardiac event itself. The part that left me gobsmacked was not the event, but her abject shock and disbelief that she (of all people!) could be experiencing a heart attack at all.  The pervasive “Why me? Why me?” focus in this chapter clearly ignored a reality that the author had somehow chosen to gloss over: she’d been a heavy smoker for several decades.

Don’t get me wrong. Any cardiac event is indeed a traumatic occurrence no matter who and when it strikes. Sometimes, we truly have no hint about the cause of said event. And my immediate gut reaction was not meant to mock this author, or minimize her experience (which was awful). 

But I felt honestly surprised that she was surprised. Continue reading “Are you a heart attack waiting to happen?”

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?”

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”

Did you really need that coronary stent?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

balloon-angioplastyA New York study has revisited the issue of stent-happy cardiologists implanting the tiny metal devices that help prop open – or revascularize – blocked coronary arteries. Essentially, this study(1) suggests that two-thirds of the justifications for this procedure in non-emergency patients were either “uncertain” or “inappropriate“. For any heart patient who has ever been told by those with the letters M.D. after their names that this type of cardiac intervention was recommended, it’s yet more troubling news. And the fact that this issue simply will not go away makes me wonder why cardiologists themselves are keeping suspiciously mum about the controversy.

When cardiologists do speak up, not surprisingly, many hasten to pre-emptively defend their interventional colleagues. An editorial that accompanied this study’s publication in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, for example, explained:

“There are certain to be patients rated as ‘inappropriate’ for which almost all competent cardiologists would recommend intervention.”

In other words, pay no attention to the man behind the curtainContinue reading “Did you really need that coronary stent?”

Squishing, burning and implanting your heart troubles away

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by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Like the eminently quotable cardiologist Dr. John Mandrola once wrote on one of my favourite heart blogs:

“We urge patients to eat less, exercise more, and not to smoke. But when they don’t do these things, we still squish their blockages, burn their rogue electrical circuits, and implant lifesaving devices in their hearts.”

As a heart attack survivor, one of the Big Lessons for me has been that although my doctors can “squish, burn and implant” all they like, their heroic efforts do not address what originally caused this damage to my coronary arteries in the first place.   Continue reading “Squishing, burning and implanting your heart troubles away”