Heart disease, not cancer, is the #1 killer of women. I learned that and other invaluable information on Carolyn Thomas’ My Heart Sisters blog.
Over the years I’ve “stolen” and reposted many a wonderful post from Carolyn Thomas. Her blog, Heart Sisters, has been one of the few I’ve followed for years. I have forgotten what led me to her blog but once I read both her compelling stories and the up-to-date information on women’s health, in particular heart disease, I was a Carolyn-groupie.
Apparently Johns Hopkins was a groupie too when they asked her to write a book on Living with Heart Disease. My guess is that her down-to-earth writing coupled with up-to-date research and information appealed to Johns Hopkins as much as it did to me.
Here’s just a sample of info found on Carolyn’s blog:
“Did you know: Women generally fare far worse than men after experiencing a cardiac event? One possible reason is that it can be confusing to make sense of warning symptoms when they do hit. Women are also less likely than our male counterparts to seek immediate help at the first sign of cardiac symptoms. Instead, we end up:”
toughing them out
waiting to see if they go away
blaming them on stress, muscle soreness, indigestion or other less serious non-cardiac causes
I can’t say enough good things about Carolyn – you’ll have to read her book and her blog to see for yourself what fabulous advocacy and education Carolyn has provided since her own “widow-maker” heart attack. (Full disclosure: we are not related, I’ve never met her in person, and I don’t get a kick-back!)
Buy a copy and give the gift of life to a woman you love . . . maybe it’s even yourself
Save 20% when you use the code HTWN when you pre-order the book from Johns Hopkins
“[A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease] gives women the knowledge they need to become their own advocates in a health care system that continues to be weighted against them.”
— Foreword Reviews
“This book brings a needed focus to a leading killer of women today and is a must-read for women and their loved ones.”
— Library Journal
“If you are a woman, or love a woman, this is a book for you! Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of women. Here is a book focused on women’s cardiovascular health. It is all here—prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Read it for the people you love.”
— Edward K. Kasper, MD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, coauthor of Living Well With Heart Failure: The Misnamed, Misunderstood Condition
“This work is an important contribution to the discussion about heart attack and misdiagnosis in women. Thomas’s personal story—alongside the stories of millions of other women—provides a needed reminder of recognizing one’s symptoms, avoiding denial, and seeking medical attention. This elegant book is a unique addition to women’s health books and a necessary read for women and the people who care about them.”
— Roger S. Blumenthal, MD, Director, The Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease
Thank you Carolyn for pushing through your own symptoms to write a book of this magnitude.
My father had quintuple bypass surgery in his 70’s. Doctor’s said it was mainly due to his smoking since a teenager. He quit in his 60’s but by then the damage was done. I won’t even begin to recount how horrible the recovery was for him and our family.
On my Mother’s side of the family my Mother, my Aunt and Uncle all had arrhythmia’s and pacemakers.
With this history I should have been more aware of heart disease but I really wasn’t UNTIL I needed a pacemaker. Here’s a scenario of a heart attack happening and what to do. It will only take a few minutes of your time to give someone else a life time.
An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable device that checks the heart rhythm. If needed, it can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
SCA is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs.
SCA usually causes death if it’s not treated within minutes. In fact, each minute of SCA leads to a 10 percent reduction in survival. Using an AED on a person who is having SCA may save the person’s life.
The heart has an internal electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat. With each heartbeat, an electrical signal spreads from the top of the heart to the bottom. As the signal travels, it causes the heart to contract and pump blood. The process repeats with each new heartbeat.
Problems with the electrical system can cause abnormal heart rhythms called arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs). During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. Some arrhythmias can cause the heart to stop pumping blood to the body. These arrhythmias cause SCA.
The most common cause of SCA is an arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation (v-fib). In v-fib, the ventricles (the heart’s lower chambers) don’t beat normally. Instead, they quiver very rapidly and irregularly.
Another arrhythmia that can lead to SCA is ventricular tachycardia (TAK-ih-KAR-de-ah). This is a fast, regular beating of the ventricles that may last for only a few seconds or for much longer.
Ninety-five percent of people who have SCA die from it—most within minutes. Rapid treatment of SCA with an AED can be lifesaving.
In people who have either of these arrhythmias, an electric shock from an AED can restore the heart’s normal rhythm. Doing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) on someone having SCA also can improve his or her chance of survival.
As horrible and frightening as other diseases are cardiovascular disease kills more women over 25 than all cancers combined. Furthermore, young women who have heart attacks are twice as likely to die from them as men are.
I am an ER nurse and this is the best description of this event that I have ever heard.
Did you know that women rarely have the same dramatic symptoms that men have when experiencing heart attack. You know, the sudden stabbing pain in the chest, the cold sweat, grabbing the chest & dropping to the floor that we see in the movies.
“I had a heart attack at about 10:30 PM with NO prior exertion, NO prior emotional trauma that one would suspect might have brought it on. I was sitting all snugly & warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had sent me, and actually thinking, ‘A-A-h, this is the life, all cozy and warm in my soft, cushy Lazy Boy with my feet propped up.
A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, when you’ve been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water, and that hurried bite seems to feel like you’ve swallowed a golf ball going down the esophagus in slow motion and it is most uncomfortable. You realize you shouldn’t have gulped it down so fast and needed to chew it more thoroughly and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to the stomach. This was my initial sensation–the only trouble was that I hadn’t taken a bite of anything since about 5:00 p.m.
After it seemed to subside, the next sensation was like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my SPINE (hind-sight, it was probably my aorta spasms), gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rhythmically when administering CPR). This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into both jaws.
‘AHA!! NOW I stopped puzzling about what was happening — we all have read and/or heard about pain in the jaws being one of the signals of an MI happening, haven’t we? I said aloud to myself and the cat, Dear God, I think I’m having a heart attack! I lowered the foot rest dumping the cat from my lap, started to take a step and fell on the floor instead. I thought to myself, If this is a heart attack, I shouldn’t be walking into the next room where the phone is or anywhere else… but, on the other hand, if I don’t, nobody will know that I need help, and if I wait any longer I may not be able to get up in a moment.
I pulled myself up with the arms of the chair, walked slowly into the next room and dialed the Paramedics… I told her I thought I was having a heart attack due to the pressure building under the sternum and radiating into my jaws. I didn’t feel hysterical or afraid, just stating the facts. She said she was sending the Paramedics over immediately, asked if the front door was near to me, and if so, to un-bolt the door and then lie down on the floor where they could see me when they came in.
I unlocked the door and then laid down on the floor as instructed and lost consciousness, as I don’t remember the medics coming in, their examination, lifting me onto a gurney or getting me into their ambulance, or hearing the call they made to St. Jude ER on the way, but I did briefly awaken when we arrived and saw that the radiologist was already there in his surgical blues and cap, helping the medics pull my stretcher out of the ambulance.
He was bending over me asking questions (probably something like ‘Have you taken any medications?’) but I couldn’t make my mind interpret what he was saying, or form an answer, and nodded off again, not waking up until the Cardiologist and partner had already threaded the teeny angiogram balloon up my femoral artery into the aorta and into my heart where they installed 2 side by side stints to hold open my right coronary artery.
I know it sounds like all my thinking and actions at home must have taken at least 20-30 minutes before calling the paramedics, but actually it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before the call, and both the fire station and St Jude are only minutes away from my home, and my Cardiologist was already to go to the OR in his scrubs and get going on restarting my heart (which had stopped somewhere between my arrival and the procedure) and installing the stints.
Why have I written all of this to you with so much detail?
Because I want all of you who are so important in my life to know what I learned first hand:
#1. Be aware that something very different is happening in your body, not the usual men’s symptoms but inexplicable things happening (until my sternum and jaws got into the act). It is said that many more women than men die of their first (and last) MI because they didn’t know they were having one and commonly mistake it as indigestion, take some Maalox or other anti-heartburn preparation and go to bed, hoping they’ll feel better in the morning when they wake up… which doesn’t happen.
My female friends, your symptoms might not be exactly like mine, so I advise you to call the Paramedics if ANYTHING is unpleasantly happening that you’ve not felt before. It is better to have a ‘false alarm’ visitation than to risk your life guessing what it might be!
#2. Note that I said ‘Call the Paramedics .’ And if you can take an aspirin. Ladies, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE! Do NOT try to drive yourself to the ER – you are a hazard to others on the road. Do NOT have your panicked husband who will be speeding and looking anxiously at what’s happening with you instead of the road. Do NOT call your doctor — he doesn’t know where you live and if it’s at night you won’t reach him anyway, and if it’s daytime, his assistants (or answering service) will tell you to call the Paramedics. He doesn’t carry the equipment in his car that you need to be saved! The Paramedics do, principally OXYGEN that you need ASAP. Your Dr will be notified later.
#3. Don’t assume it couldn’t be a heart attack because you have a normal cholesterol count. Research has discovered that a cholesterol elevated reading is rarely the cause of an MI (unless it’s unbelievably high and/or accompanied by high blood pressure). MIs are usually caused by long-term stress and inflammation in the body, which dumps all sorts of deadly hormones into your system to sludge things up in there. Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep. Let’s be careful and be aware. The more we know the better chance we could survive.
A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this information and sends it to 10 people,
you can be sure that we’ll save at least one life.