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. Here was an intelligent, educated woman who’d been actively and relentlessly engaged year after year after year in one of the most well-known and downright dangerous risk factors for cardiovascular disease out there – yet she’s surprised?
Cigarette smoking is considered the most important preventable cause of premature death in North America. So how is it even possible she would not know this? How is it possible that she would have no clue that her heavy smoking was damaging her heart? Continue reading