Be your own hero during a heart attack

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Today, I’m happy to share with you the story of an unusual milestone in life that you may not be familiar with unless you, too, are a heart patient: it’s the Heart-iversary celebration that marks another year since the day you survived a cardiac event. 

My own Heart-iversary is coming up on May 6th, but just recently Laura Haywood-Cory wrote about celebrating the seven year milestone since she survived a heart attack caused by a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD).  With Laura’s permission, I’m running her reflections here on this celebration: Continue reading “Be your own hero during a heart attack”

This is your heart (my Heart Month interview)

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Heart Month (aka February) typically means a flurry of once-a-year media attention to the important subject of women’s heart health, so I like to take advantage of as many interview requests as I can every February.  Strike while the iron’s hot!  Make hay while the sun shines! Drink the glass of wine while it’s sitting right in front of you!  Okay, that last rule I just made up…

One such interview request this year was from Media Planet’s 2016 Cardiovascular Health Campaign launched by Canada’s National Post newspaper and online. Here’s the text of that interview with Taylor Mihail of Media Planet. Continue reading “This is your heart (my Heart Month interview)”

Downplaying symptoms: just pretend it’s NOT a heart attack

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

When a blockage or spasm in one or more of your coronary arteries stops allowing freshly oxygenated blood to feed your heart muscle, a heart attack can happen. The faster you can access emergency treatment to address that culprit artery, the better your chances of being appropriately diagnosed.  The period of time between your first symptoms and actively getting the help you need can be divided into three phases:

  1. decision time – the period from the first onset of acute symptoms to the decision to seek care (for example, calling 911)
  2. transport time – the period from the decision to seek care to arrival at the Emergency Department
  3. therapy timethe period from arrival at the Emergency Department to the start of medical treatment

Only the first phase is the one you have complete control over. So don’t blow it.

Continue reading “Downplaying symptoms: just pretend it’s NOT a heart attack”

How gender bias threatens women’s health

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I attended the 64th annual Canadian Cardiovascular Congress not as a participant, but with media accreditation in order to report on the proceedings for my blog readers.  I arrived at the gorgeous Vancouver Convention Centre feeling excited to interview as many of the cardiac researchers attending this conference as I could squeeze into my 2-day schedule – particularly all the ones studying women’s heart disease.  I was gobsmacked, however, when conference organizers in the Media Centre told me on my first day that, out of hundreds of cardiology papers being presented that year, I’d be able to “count on one hand” the number of those studies that had anything even remotely to do with the subject of women and heart disease. Essentially, that appalling gender gap then became the Big Story of the conference for me. And every one of those four lonely little studies shared a conclusion that I already knew: when it comes to heart disease, women fare worse than men do.*  See also: The Sad Reality of Women’s Heart Disease Hits Home.

But already, I can tell that this weekend’s annual Congress (once again back in Vancouver) should do better.  This year, the 192-page conference program lists over a dozen studies reporting specifically on women’s experience of heart disease.(1)  Sounds good – until you remember that it’s a puny drop in the bucket for an international conference where over 500 original new scientific papers are being presented about a diagnosis that has killed more women than men every year since 1984. Continue reading “How gender bias threatens women’s health”

A second opinion from Dr. Google

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I’ve often suspected that if only the E.R. doctor who misdiagnosed me with indigestion had bothered to just Google my cardiac symptoms (chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain radiating down my left arm), he and Dr. Google would have almost immediately hit upon my correct diagnosis: myocardial infarction, or heart attack. But instead, he pronounced that I was “in the right demographic” for acid reflux. I was sent home that day feeling horribly embarrassed for having made a fuss over nothing but a case of indigestion. As time went by, however, and my debilitating symptoms became truly unbearable, I turned to Dr. Google.

And that’s why I forced myself, despite my embarrassment, to return to the E.R. – but with the pronouncement of that first E.R. doc still ringing in my ears:

“It is NOT your heart!”

Many physicians out there, however, are not happy when their patients consult Dr. Google to research troubling symptoms like mine. Continue reading “A second opinion from Dr. Google”

A zebra among horses

A guest post by Laura Haywood-Cory – to help celebrate Rare Disease Awareness Day, 2/29/12

“Almost three years ago, I had a heart attack at the age of 40, with no family history or elevated risk factors. I’m not diabetic, I don’t smoke, my arteries aren’t clogged, and at the time, I was training for a triathlon.

“I was in shock to wake up one morning with textbook heart attack symptoms — pain in the center of my chest that radiated down my left arm and up into my neck and jaw, I had cold sweats, I felt nauseated.

“My husband drove us to the hospital, where they treated me as if I were having a heart attack–they gave me a nitro patch, an aspirin, drew blood, did a chest X-ray and an EKG–all the while telling me that it wasn’t my heart, because I was too young and too female.   Continue reading “A zebra among horses”