This is NOT what a woman’s heart attack looks like

thatguy2.pngThis is a man told by the photographer to act like he’s having a heart attack.

 

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters  May 19, 2019

One of the reasons that I knew I wasn’t having a heart attack (even while I was actually having one) was my very inaccurate stereotype of what a woman’s heart attack can look like.

I used to think that heart attacks happen only to men. Old men. Mostly out-of-shape chain smokers and heavy drinkers.  Old, out-of-shape, smoking, drinking men, who one day out on the golf course suddenly clutch their chests in agony and keel over, unconscious. CPR. 911. Golf buddies yelling. Ambulance sirens. Paramedics. Defibrillator paddles. That’s a heart attack, right?

Wrong, my dear heart sisters. That’s NOT a heart attack.  Continue reading “This is NOT what a woman’s heart attack looks like”

“I rang the bell again. No one came.”

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

There are a number of 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 ““I rang the bell again. No one came.””

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”

Is your doctor talking to your other doctors?

talking-illustration-2f787e24f86ed57d0b8d5d3bb93f5b9320b5af44-s6-c30While I was in my hospital’s Coronary Care Unit recuperating from a heart attack, my longtime family physician knew nothing about what had just happened to her patient of over 32 years. At some point, a hospital report signed by the cardiologist in charge of my care was sent off to her (probably by fax – and by the way, can you name any other profession that still uses the fax machine as a mode of such sensitive, important and personal communication?)  Continue reading “Is your doctor talking to your other doctors?”

“I’m the least depressed person on earth, except when I’m depressed”

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

When I learned that Dr. Sherwin Nuland was going to be doing a guest lecture at the University of Victoria here back in 2012, I was among the first in town to book tickets. I loved his book called How We Die (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) ever since I’d featured his chapter on death and heart disease three years earlier here.

His sold-out UVic audience was enthralled by his engaging manner and compelling excerpts read from his newest book called The Art of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription for Well-Being.

But I was even more intrigued by this famous surgeon/Yale University professor’s personal stories of his own experience living with debilitating depression – a depression so crippling, so impossible to shift, that in his 40s his doctors were considering doing a pre-frontal lobotomy.   Continue reading ““I’m the least depressed person on earth, except when I’m depressed””