Tag Archives: women’s heart attacks

How does it really feel to have a heart attack? Female survivors answer that question

30 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Having a heart attack felt nothing like how I thought it would feel.   For one thing, unlike sudden cardiac arrest, in which the heart stops beating and you stop breathing, during my heart attack (myocardial infarction), my heart continued beating, and I was walking, talking and conscious throughout despite horrific symptoms – so how could I possibly be having a heart attack?

Like most women, I’d never really thought about my heart – except maybe years ago when running up that killer Quadra Street hill with my running group. Yet we know that heart disease kills six times more women than breast cancer does each year (in fact, it kills more women than all forms of cancer combined).

Women need to know all the potential symptoms of a heart attack – both typical and atypical – and seek immediate medical help if these symptoms do hit.  So I asked some survivors to share their very first symptoms. Their heart attack stories may surprise you:
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How women can tell if they’re headed for a heart attack

28 Aug

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 to the doctor, as reported in Dr. McSweeney’s study, published in the medical journal, Circulation.(1)  And for those women who did seek help, doctors often failed to identify their problems as being heart-related.
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Be your own hero during a heart attack

1 May

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Today, I’m happy to share with you the story of an unusual milestone in life that you may not be familiar with unless you, too, are a heart patient: it’s the Heart-iversary celebration that marks another year since the day you survived a cardiac event. 

My own Heart-iversary is coming up on May 6th, but just recently Laura Haywood-Cory wrote about celebrating the seven year milestone since she survived a heart attack caused by a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD).  With Laura’s permission, I’m running her reflections here on this celebration: Continue reading

How can we get female heart patients past ER gatekeepers?

15 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Sometimes, people in my women’s heart health presentation audiences ask me if I’ve ever gone back to confront the physician who had misdiagnosed me with indigestion and sent me home from the E.R. – despite my textbook heart attack symptoms of chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain radiating down my left arm.  No, my heart sisters, I never did. But what did happen was, I think, even more satisfyingly juicy.   

Months after surviving that heart attack, and freshly fortified with Mayo Clinic cred after graduating from their annual WomenHeart Science & Leadership training for women with heart disease, I received an invitation to share what I’d just learned at Mayo to local docs and nurses working in Emergency Medicine.  I was offered one whole hour on the agenda of their annual Staff Education Day to talk about my own fateful misdiagnosis – and how, according to the Mayo Women’s Heart Clinic, that scenario might be avoided for future female heart patients like me: women who present with textbook cardiac symptoms but “normal” diagnostic tests. 

And as a patient advocate recently told physicians at a national symposium on integrated health care:

“The only way to heal a bad experience is to make it better for the next person.”   Continue reading

Squishing, burning and implanting your heart troubles away

8 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Like the eminently quotable cardiologist Dr. John Mandrola once wrote on one of my favourite heart blogs:

“We urge patients to eat less, exercise more, and not to smoke. But when they don’t do these things, we still squish their blockages, burn their rogue electrical circuits, and implant lifesaving devices in their hearts.”

As a heart attack survivor, one of the Big Lessons for me has been that although my doctors can “squish, burn and implant” all they like, their heroic efforts do not address what originally caused this damage to my coronary arteries in the first place.   Continue reading