Cardiologists know that, when it comes to seeking emergency medical help while experiencing alarming cardiac symptoms, women can be surprisingly reluctant to call 911. As I’ve written about here, here and here, this is a puzzling phenomenon we call treatment-seeking delay behaviour. It turns out that some cardiologists have to worry not only about patients like this, but about their own mothers. Continue reading
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
by Carolyn Thomas ♥ @HeartSisters
I finally realized that I was in big trouble during a five-hour flight from Ottawa to Vancouver. But I’d been told emphatically by an Emergency Department physician two weeks earlier that my symptoms were just from acid reflux – and had nothing to do with my heart.
So for two weeks, I’d endured increasingly debilitating episodes of chest pain, sweating, nausea and pain radiating down my left arm. But hey! – at least I knew it wasn’t my heart. A man with the letters M.D. after his name had told me so. Continue reading
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 that 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:
- decision time – the period from the first onset of acute symptoms to the decision to seek care (for example, calling 911)
- transport time – the period from the decision to seek care to arrival at the Emergency Department
- therapy time – the 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.
I’ve been fascinated by studies on why women wait so long to get medical help despite heart attack symptoms ever since the spring of 2008 when I spent way too long before seeking help for my own increasingly debilitating signs. I sometimes replay that two-week experience in my little peabrain, and I ask myself the same question being asked by a team of Harvard researchers in a new study:
“Why do women wait longer than men before seeking help even when they’re in the middle of a frickety-frackin’ heart attack?” .
One of the most upsetting things about being misdiagnosed with acid reflux in mid-heart attack was the sense of pervasive humiliation I felt as I was sent home from the Emergency Department that morning. I had just wasted the very valuable time of very busy doctors and nurses working in emergency medicine. I left the hospital feeling apologetic and embarrassed because I had made a big fuss over NOTHING.
And such embarrassment also made me second-guess my own ability to assess when it’s even worth seeking medical help. Worse, feeling embarrassed kept me from returning to Emergency when I was again stricken two days later with identical symptoms: central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm. But hey! At least I knew it wasn’t my heart, right?
I now ask those in my women’s heart health presentation audiences to imagine what I would have done had my textbook cardiac symptoms been happening to my daughter Larissa instead of to me. General audience opinion is that I, like most Mums, would have likely been screaming blue murder, insisting on appropriate and timely care for my child. But as U.K. physician Dr. Jonathon Tomlinson pointed out recently, even parents can feel insecure about their own ability to know what is a real medical emergency – and what is not – when it comes to their children. For example: Continue reading