When women are far too busy to seek medical help

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     July 28, 2019

In the wonderful world of cardiology, we know that “time is muscle”. The faster a person in mid-heart attack can get prompt and effective treatment, the greater the likelihood of saving that heart muscle, and of survival itself. As Yale University researcher Dr. Angelo Alonzo has suggested, the weak link in the chain of events leading to prompt and effective cardiac treatment is often patient delay in seeking care (which I’ve written about lots because I was so good at this myself:  here, here and here, for example).  Ironically, even having “knowledge of symptoms or risk factors” does NOT decrease this pervasively common treatment-seeking delay behaviour.   . Continue reading “When women are far too busy to seek medical help”

Why won’t doctors believe women?

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters    March 24, 2019

A woman in one of my Heart-Smart Women presentation audiences told me about a conversation she overheard in our local Emergency Department, in which the physician said to the (male) patient in the bed next to hers:

“All of your cardiac tests came back ‘normal’, but we’re going to admit you for observation just to make sure it isn’t your heart.”

That story tells us that (unlike your average woman – i.e. me! – with cardiac symptoms alarming enough to propel her to seek emergency care, but unlucky enough to have tests that look “normal”), a man who shows up with both cardiac symptoms and “normal” test results does not need to fight to be believed. Continue reading “Why won’t doctors believe women?”

Women’s early warning signs of a heart attack

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

When Dr. Jean McSweeney from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences interviewed hundreds of heart attack survivors, she discovered something surprising: 95 percent of the women she interviewed actually suspected something was very wrong in the months leading up to their attack.

But even these early warning prodromal symptoms didn’t necessarily send women rushing to the doctor, as reported in Dr. McSweeney’s study published in the cardiology journal, Circulation.(1)  And for those women who did seek help early, doctors often failed to identify their problems as being heart-related.  Continue reading “Women’s early warning signs of a heart attack”

“Can’t go to my support group meeting because my husband’s expecting dinner”

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-1-45-37-pmI opened an email recently from one of my Mayo heart sisters. She had dropped me a note because she was concerned about a woman (a recent heart attack survivor) who had told her she really wanted to attend their community’s next WomenHeart support group meeting for women living with heart disease (this one was a monthly meeting held from 3-4:30 p.m.). But this woman claimed that she couldn’t go to the meeting – because she “had to be home to cook dinner for her husband.” Although her hubby was retired and at home all day long, the heart attack survivor explained that “he expects to have dinner ready at the regular time that I have had it for him all the years he was working.”

My initial reaction (after checking the calendar just to make sure it’s not still 1950): I need to go have a wee lie-down to recuperate from reading this story. Continue reading ““Can’t go to my support group meeting because my husband’s expecting dinner””

Slow-onset heart attack: the trickster that fools us

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

As I’ve noted here previously, there were a number of very good reasons that I believed that Emergency Department physician who sent me home with an acid reflux misdiagnosis. Despite my textbook heart attack symptoms of central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm, these reasons included:

1.  He had the letters M.D. after his name;

2.  He misdiagnosed me in a decisively authoritative manner;

3.  I wanted to believe him because I’d much rather have indigestion than heart disease, thank you very much;

4.  The Emergency nurse scolded me privately about my questions to this doctor, warning me: “He is a very good doctor, and he does not like to be questioned!”  (The questions I’d been asking included, not surprisingly: “But Doctor, what about this pain down my left arm?”);

5.  Most of all, what I had always imagined a heart attack looking like (clutching one’s chest in agony, falling down unconscious, 911, ambulance, sirens, CPR) was not at all what I was experiencing. Instead, despite my alarming symptoms, I was still able to walk, talk, think and generally behave like a normally functioning person, i.e. one who is definitely NOT having a heart attack!*

So it all made sense to me as I was being sent home from Emergency that day, feeling very embarrassed because I had clearly been making a big fuss over nothing.

My experience, however, might have been what researchers in Ireland refer to as “slow-onset myocardial infarction”.   Continue reading “Slow-onset heart attack: the trickster that fools us”

Getting help during a heart attack: ‘delayers’ vs ‘survivors’

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

If you thought you were having a heart attack, would part of you worry about being embarrassed if it turned out your symptoms weren’t that serious after all? Would you dread the attention of an ambulance coming to your home?  If so, you might be considered a “delayer”.

On the other hand, would you likely call 911 immediately because you believe that embarrassment passes quickly and without long-term damage, while a heart attack does not? If so, you’d be considered a “survivor”.

Check this chart to see which category you belong in – and then take whatever steps are required to move yourself immediately from delaying to surviving.   Continue reading “Getting help during a heart attack: ‘delayers’ vs ‘survivors’”