Why your own story is not scientific data

RecognizedExpertsby Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters 

One of my all-time favourite reviews of my book (A Woman’s Guide to Living With Heart Disease, published by Johns Hopkins University Press) comes from Robert in Australia, who wrote:

“A bit too much emphasis on how women are neglected when it comes to heart disease. Happily, for me and my fellow patients, my doctors, nurses and physios did everything by the book.”

Dear Robert:   Thank you for helping to prove my frickety-fracking point.        .      .     Continue reading “Why your own story is not scientific data”

Cardiac research and the mystery of the missing facts

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Over the years, I’ve had to teach myself the bare bone basics of interpreting cardiac studies. I’m certainly no research scientist (although I did spend 20 years of my life with one – does that count at all?) but I can tell you that one good place I like to start is the methodology section of any study.

Wait!  Don’t leave yet!   I know, I know, this may seem crushingly dull. But the methods info is how I learned, for example, that out of over 5,000 participants recruited for the $100 million ISCHEMIA study in 2019, only 23 per cent were women. At the time, I offered a helpful editing suggestion to the Washington Post about their sensational coverage of ISCHEMIA (“Stents and Bypass Surgery are No More Effective Than Drugs!!” ) by requesting this important clarifier added to the end of that headline: FOR MEN!”       .        .     Continue reading “Cardiac research and the mystery of the missing facts”

Do you need a robot to help with your hospital gown?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

hospital Here at Heart Sisters World Headquarters, yet another academic news release has crossed my desk, bursting with life-changing hype. This one is about hospitalized patients, especially those who are too ill or too weak to put on their own attractive hospital gowns.

The news from the Georgia Institute of Technology says that a million of us need daily assistance in getting dressed because of “injury, disease and advanced age.” What we need when we are admitted to hospital, apparently, is a robot to help us get dressed! (What we actually need, Georgia Tech, is to replace those hideous hospital gowns with what’s known as adaptive clothing, along with adequate healthcare staffing levels). Continue reading “Do you need a robot to help with your hospital gown?”

The concept of ‘mansplaining’ explained for you . . .

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Regular readers already know how in love I am with the “Just a Little Heart Attack” film from the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women heart health campaign this year. In three short minutes, this film manages to do what countless other heart disease awareness campaigns I’ve seen fail to pull off: to be both hilarious and frightening, packed with life-saving education on common heart attack symptoms in women. The actress Elizabeth Banks – who also directed this short film, and whose real-life mother and sister have heart issues – plays a harried, multi-tasking mother trying desperately to get her family up, dressed, fed and ready to head out the door on time, all while completely ignoring her own worsening heart attack symptoms.

Elizabeth gets every small detail of this scenario pitch-perfect, including:

  • her “I’m fine!” reassurances as she reels with nausea, chest pressure, dizziness, jaw pain, neck pain, arm pain, weakness and profuse sweating
  • her apology to the 911 phone dispatcher for being a bother
  • and (my favourite scene!) her abject dismay at surveying the messy kitchen, knowing the ambulance is already en route and she won’t have time to tidy up before it arrives!

Women who have actually lived through this will probably recognize every excruciatingly familiar moment of what it’s like to experience a heart attack.

But noted health journalism watchdog Gary Schwitzer over at Health News Review felt otherwise about this film, which he criticized in a post called Disease-Mongering Du Jour: Heart Disease in Young Women.   Continue reading “The concept of ‘mansplaining’ explained for you . . .”

“Alcohol Helps Heart Bypass Patients!” – good news or bad reporting?

“Light alcohol consumption was associated with a 25% reduction in additional heart procedures, heart attacks or strokes in a study by Italian researchers, presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago.”

This report was distributed around the world by Reuters*, the venerable U.K.-based news agency. Trouble is, after the health journalism watchdog Health News Review got finished with their assessment of this news reporting, they awarded Reuters a rare score of zero on their six-point quality scale.  For example, their pet peeves:   Continue reading ““Alcohol Helps Heart Bypass Patients!” – good news or bad reporting?”