Our cardiac meds – in real life, not just in studies

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    September 16, 2018

If you – like me – have had a heart attack, you are now likely taking a fistful of medications each morning, everything from anti-platelet drugs to help prevent a new blockage from forming inside your metal stent to meds that can help lower your blood pressure. All of these cardiac drugs have been studied by researchers before being approved by government regulators as being safe and effective for us to take every day.

But one particular study on this subject published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology(1) raised a unique point:

“Little is known about the benefits and risks of longterm use of cardiovascular drugs. Clinical trials rarely go beyond a few years of follow-up, but patients are often given continuous treatment with multiple drugs well into old age.”  

Continue reading “Our cardiac meds – in real life, not just in studies”

Hair loss and heart meds

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

Did you know that most of us normally shed 50 to 100 hairs a day from our heads? According to Mayo Clinic experts, this usually doesn’t cause noticeable thinning of our scalp hair, however, because new hair is growing in at the same time. Hair loss actually occurs when this cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted for some reason. It’s thought to be related to one or more factors like family history, hormonal changes, medical conditions, or medications.

It was this last factor that caught my attention.  I read recently about a list of medications commonly prescribed to heart patients that may also be linked to the distressing side effect of hair loss – especially since I’ve been noticing with some alarm that my own hair seems to be thinning at a scary rate! Continue reading “Hair loss and heart meds”

Women and statins: evidence-based medicine or wishful thinking?

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Are you:

A.  a healthy woman who’s never had any issues with your heart, but . . .

B you know heart disease is the #1 killer of women, so . . .

C.  you’re wondering what you can do to help prevent B from happening to you?

Warding off a first heart attack is what physicians call “primary prevention”. It’s also what respected cardiologists representing both the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology are now telling us can be effectively accomplished by taking one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins.

But it turns out that many other equally-respected cardiologists don’t believe that taking a powerful drug every day for the rest of your natural life for a disease you don’t even have is appropriate for primary prevention – particularly in womenContinue reading “Women and statins: evidence-based medicine or wishful thinking?”

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”

When drugs that help turn into drugs that harm

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

nutrient-drug-interactions-2129I’ve been thinking an awful lot about drug safety lately, ever since I’ve been camped out at the hospital bedside of a dear friend.  She’s been hospitalized with a severe drug toxicity reaction to a commonly-prescribed medication she’d been newly taking for the past month. And when I say “severe”, I mean you cannot even imagine the horrific symptoms she has suffered day after day after day, week after week, while the pharmaceutical culprit, excruciatingly slowly, clears her system.
Continue reading “When drugs that help turn into drugs that harm”

Women, controversial statin guidelines, and common sense

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

101109expIf you’re a heart patient, I’m betting that you’re already taking one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins. That’s because these drugs – with brand names like Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor or any of their generic forms – are routinely prescribed to those diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. Many studies (largely funded by the drug companies that make statins) suggest that, for heart attack survivors, these drugs may help to significantly lower our risk of having another cardiac event. It’s what doctors call “secondary prevention”.

Some studies further suggest that statins are also useful for those who’ve never had heart disease, but who do have high LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol – what’s called “primary prevention”. But recently, statins hit the front page of The New York Times with a big fat *splat* when new clinical practice guidelines for treating/preventing heart disease were released by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology (both heart organizations that are coincidentally largely funded by drug companies, too). The guidelines essentially said: from now on, forget about your LDL numbers. It’s all about your risk factors now. 

The likely result of this change, as I observed here and here, is the recommendation that, as long as you have a detectable pulse, you need to take statins. 

Continue reading “Women, controversial statin guidelines, and common sense”