Tag Archives: MVD

“Doing Harm”: Enter to win Maya Dusenbery’s new book

11 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    March 11, 2018

Author Maya Dusenbery interviewed me while I was neck-deep in final copy edits of my book, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease. She wanted to talk about why women heart patients are more likely to be under-diagnosed than men, and then – worse! – more likely to be under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed. Maya was writing her own book at the time, and it’s finally out this week. Its pithy title sums up the focus pretty succinctly: Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick. Here’s a 10-word summary of her book:

My own review of Dusenbery’s book starts with this warning to my heart sisters: “Do NOT start reading Doing Harm unless you have first taken your blood pressure meds!”    Continue reading

No blockages: Living with non-obstructive heart disease

10 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Annette PompaAnnette Pompa of Pennsylvania lives with a cardiac diagnosis I’d never even heard of until I, too, was diagnosed with it several months after surviving a heart attack. It’s called Coronary Microvascular Disease (MVD) or Small Vessel Disease. Unlike the classic Hollywood Heart Attack I’d initially experienced – which is typically caused by a significantly blocked major coronary artery – those of us diagnosed with MVD or coronary spasm disorders have few if any detectable blockages obstructing flow in the major blood vessels feeding the heart muscle. Yet we can experience the same distressing symptoms of a heart attack. Annette is a former art teacher who was barely 41 years old when MVD “came barging into my life”, as she explains. With her permission, I’m reprinting this transcript of an American Heart Association presentation that Annette gave recently about living with a non-obstructive heart condition.

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“This is my story. I represent an often misunderstood population living with a very different type of heart disease. Sadly, there are many more like me with MVD who are simply not being recognized – and indeed even dismissed. Symptoms often persist even without any visible blockage or reason for the angina, shortness of breath and fatigue which often accompany the condition. It is crazy, right? Here I was seemingly healthy – yet ended up battling heart disease.  Continue reading

Do you want the truth, or do you want “Fine, thank you”?

17 Jul

Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

One beautiful afternoon last fall, I was walking my daughter home from her downtown office at the end of her workday. I love these mother-daughter walks of ours. We used to do them quite often (before Larissa recently delivered my darling grandbaby Everly Rose and started her extended maternity leave).

She’d phone me just as she was about to leave work, and we’d each start walking from opposite ends of Rockland Avenue (a long leafy ramble that starts downtown near her office and finishes up near our respective homes in Oak Bay Village). We’d meet up about halfway to walk the rest of the way home together. In this fashion, we each got an hour’s brisk walk into our day, but best of all, we got to chat all the way home.

But this one afternoon, while we were walking along Rockland, I felt the familiar yet ominous crush of chest pain as we walked, that frightening kind of angina that seems to get worse with every step.  After trying my best to ignore these symptoms at first, I finally had to stop her while she was in mid-sentence, fishing in my bag for nitro spray as I lurched towards a nearby stone bench to sit down. Continue reading

“I rang the bell again. No one came.”

22 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

There are a number of big issues that leaped out at me about the hospital story you’re about to read.  Let’s see how many of them you observe, too – and how many could have been prevented.  This story is told by Ann, an Australian heart patient whose cardiac journey began in 2007 when she was 51 years old. But over the years since then, she has continued to suffer debilitating cardiac symptoms almost every day.

Her symptoms include not just chest pain, but pain throughout her upper back, jaw, shoulder, neck or arm, occasionally with severe shortness of breath. Despite taking a fistful of daily heart meds and wearing a nitro patch to help manage pain, Ann is rarely able to sleep through an entire night without being awoken by these symptoms. And here’s why . . .
Continue reading

When routine tasks trigger heart symptoms

1 Apr

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

household-choresHeart disease is a strange animal indeed. Our very first symptoms can range from mild shortness of breath on exertion to sudden death – and almost every possible symptom in between.  My own were those of the textbook Hollywood Heart Attack (crushing central chest pain, nausea, sweating, and pain down my left arm) – yet I was sent home by Emergency Department staff with a misdiagnosis of indigestion – feeling very, very embarrassed for having made such a fuss over nothing.  It took two weeks to be finally correctly diagnosed with myocardial infarction (heart attack) caused by a 95% blockage of my Left Anterior Descending Coronary artery. And it took several more months – and another trip back to hospital – to figure out what was causing ongoing distressing symptoms that were ultimately diagnosed as Inoperable Coronary Microvascular Disease (MVD) or dysfunction of the smaller coronary arteries.

But MVD is very tricky to diagnose because most standard coronary artery disease diagnostic tests – the kind that work so well at  identifying big fat blockages in our larger arteries – may not be capable of catching it.  Continue reading