Little social support: a big gap for younger heart patients

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥ @HeartSisters

I used to offer to sell to my non-Ukrainian friends the guest list from our big Ukrainian wedding. Imagine 450 names, all of whom were raised in a wonderful Slavic culture that knows what to do when hard times strike. No sooner do they hear of a friend or neighbour’s problems (like a family tragedy or a serious health crisis) – and they start pitching in to help. Such support often starts with baking, cooking and getting the casserole dishes lined up on the kitchen counter for imminent delivery to the freshly-stricken person’s fridge. Researchers know that having social support like this from others following a heart attack (or any serious health crisis) helps not only with physical recuperation, but also with emotional and psychological recovery, too. Yet virtually all published health research on the important quality-of-life issue of social support so far has been done on men.

White men.

White men, almost all of them seniors.

So lots of old white men studied, but very few women – and very few patients of either gender who were younger than 55 years of age.  But the VIRGO study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association finally attempts to address this gap.(1)  . . .
Continue reading “Little social support: a big gap for younger heart patients”

A wife’s heart disease teaches her husband a big lesson

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Physician Dr. Robin Schoenthaler once wrote in a Boston Globe column that, instead of looking for men who like those long romantic walks on the beach at sunset, women would do well to picture how the man of your dreams handles things when you’re sick. In fact, her recommendation for ideal husband material is a man who will hold your purse in the hospital waiting room.

It can be rare to hear in person from men about what it’s really like to live with us while we’re living with heart disease. It isn’t often, for example, that our WomenHeart online support community of thousands of female heart patients on Inspire.com hears directly from a real live male. But when Steve Kirsche of Wethersfield, CT stopped by to write about his own perspective as the spouse of a heart patient, I asked him for permission to reprint his personal observations here for you. Here’s what Steve had to tell us: Continue reading “A wife’s heart disease teaches her husband a big lesson”

How our girlfriends can help us get through the toughest times

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Here’s the difference between men and women. Some years ago, a couple we knew announced that they were getting a divorce. We were gobsmacked! None of our friends had seen this announcement coming from what appeared (to us) to be one of those “perfect” couples. The day we heard their news, it happened that our friend Paul was scheduled to go on a long day-hike in the mountains with the soon-to-be-single husband, just the two of them. At the end of that day, Paul’s wife waited impatiently for his return to hear the scoop about the split. When he finally arrived home, she asked him:

“Well? Well?  What did he say?”

“What did he say about what?” asked her hubby.

“The DIVORCE! What did he say about the DIVORCE?”

“Oh,” he replied. “It didn’t come up.”

It didn’t come up?  It didn’t come up?  Can you imagine two close women friends hiking together for hours and the most important personal crisis of the decade “doesn’t come up”?   It would never happen. And here’s why:  it turns out that when emotions and feelings are running high, women actually respond with a neurochemical reaction that propels us to seek out our women friends to debrief what is happening to us. Continue reading “How our girlfriends can help us get through the toughest times”

How humour can help – or hurt – your heart disease recovery

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

“My hubby is stuck with me for another 15 years as long as I keep following doctor’s orders.”

“I told my family that I now had a pig valve in my heart – but I was disappointed when the doctor told me I couldn’t keep the bacon.”

“I am determined to outlive my husband – because I want to clean out his garage!”

Heart patients often use humour like this to distract themselves from the high levels of stress and fear often associated with a life-altering diagnosis like heart disease – such as upcoming surgery, diagnostic tests, or even the ongoing awareness of significantly increased risk of future cardiac events. So reports Nicholas Lockwood, whose research focused on how heart patients use humour to help them cope with such a frightening condition – but ended up showing some surprising results.  Continue reading “How humour can help – or hurt – your heart disease recovery”

“All the SCAD ladies, put your hands up!”

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Heart attack survivor Laura Haywood-Cory, one of my heart sisters and a fellow “graduate” of the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at Mayo Clinic, emailed me with great excitement last week:

“The Wall Street Journal interview with Katherine, me and Dr. Hayes is now live!!”

This WSJ piece tells the inspiring story of how heart attack survivor  Katherine Leon, with Laura’s help, convinced a world-famous hospital to launch research on the rare and deadly heart condition they had each survived: spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD. (See also: When Your Artery Tears).  

Continue reading ““All the SCAD ladies, put your hands up!””