Tag Archives: heart attack symptoms

85% of hospital admissions for chest pain are NOT heart attack

30 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

“I was asleep and my symptoms woke me up. I had several simultaneous symptoms, but the first one seemed to be central chest pain. It wasn’t sharp or crushing or burning, more like a dull pressure. The pain radiated down my left arm and up into my neck and jaw. I had cold sweats, and I felt nauseated.”

Laura Haywood-Cory, age 41, heart attack, six stents

Researchers tell us that over 90% of us already know that chest pain like Laura’s could be a symptom of what doctors call Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI – or heart attack) or Acute Coronary Syndrome (any condition brought on by sudden reduced blood flow to the heart muscle).  So it may not surprise you to learn that chest pain is the main reason that over 6 million people rush to the Emergency Departments of North American hospitals each year. These visits also represent a whopping 25% of all hospital admissions – yet 85% of these admissions do NOT turn out to be heart-related at allContinue reading

Do NOT drive yourself to the E.R. in mid-heart attack!

23 Oct

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I don’t know why this even needs saying, but apparently it does. People talking about heart patients with severe chest pain (or offering advice to heart patients with severe chest pain, or speaking onstage at Stanford University’s annual Medicine X conference showing this slide about heart patients with severe chest pain) must never and I do mean NEVER even hint that patients should drive themselves to hospital while experiencing “severe chest pain” unless you are “too dizzy to drive yourself”. 

REALITY UPDATE: I am posting this slide as a warning to others about giving bad advice, not to offer an opinion on hospitals that engage in patient communication tools. 

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How women can tell if they’re headed for a heart attack

28 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

When Dr. Jean McSweeney from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences interviewed hundreds of heart attack survivors, she discovered something surprising: 95 percent of the women she interviewed actually suspected something was very wrong in the months leading up to their attack.

But even these early warning prodromal symptoms didn’t necessarily send women to the doctor, as reported in Dr. McSweeney’s study, published in the medical journal, Circulation.(1)  And for those women who did seek help, doctors often failed to identify their problems as being heart-related.
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Why we ignore serious symptoms

8 May

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

Before my heart attack, I spent almost two decades as a distance runner. Many of the elite marathoners I knew (and certainly the one I happened to live with!) obsessed mercilessly on every detail, every hill, every split time of every race, but not so much on the daily joys of just running itself. It was the destination, not the journey, that seemed to matter to so many of these elite athletes – especially during race season.

The members of my own running group could never be accused of being elite runners.

Our motto: “No course too short, no pace too slow.”  But over those decades, whenever my group was in training for a specific road race looming on the calendar, I could watch myself being somehow sucked into that seductive groupthink trap of running even when I was sick, running when I was injured, running because it’s Tuesday and Tuesdays meant hill work, running with an ankle or knee taped and hurting.

Getting to a more important destination (the race) became bigger to me than paying attention to those less important messages (don’t run today). In fact, I learned from other runners to deliberately mistrust whatever my lazy-ass self was trying to say.  I learned to ignore the messages my own body was sending me. Continue reading

Heart attack explained in 10 easy minutes

24 May

by Carolyn Thomas 

I’m selfishly reluctant to tell you about Khan Academy’s amazing little film that brilliantly explains in about 10 minutes what a heart attack is all about. This reluctance is because once you visit Sal Khan‘s website, you’ll abandon Heart Sisters as well as all other sites you love, and may never come back. His Khan Academy is the thinking person’s version of those addictive cute kitty time-wasters on YouTube.   Continue reading

Slow-onset heart attack: the trickster that fools us

19 Apr

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

As I’ve noted here previously, there were a number of very good reasons that I believed that Emergency Department physician who sent me home with an acid reflux misdiagnosis. Despite my textbook heart attack symptoms of central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm, these reasons included:

1.  He had the letters M.D. after his name;

2.  He misdiagnosed me in a decisively authoritative manner;

3.  I wanted to believe him because I’d much rather have indigestion than heart disease, thank you very much;

4.  The Emergency nurse scolded me privately about my questions to this doctor, warning me: “He is a very good doctor, and he does not like to be questioned!”  (The questions I’d been asking included, not surprisingly: “But Doctor, what about this pain down my left arm?”);

5.  Most of all, what I had always imagined a heart attack looking like (clutching one’s chest in agony, falling down unconscious, 911, ambulance, sirens, CPR) was not at all what I was experiencing. Instead, despite my alarming symptoms, I was still able to walk, talk, think and generally behave like a normally functioning person, i.e. one who is definitely NOT having a heart attack!*

So it all made sense to me as I was being sent home from Emergency that day, feeling very embarrassed because I had clearly been making a big fuss over nothing.

My experience, however, might have been what researchers in Ireland refer to as “slow-onset myocardial infarction”.   Continue reading