Sunday, February 27, 2011

My guest post on Medical IDs

My guest post is now up on the blog for Lauren's Hope medical IDs:

If you have a medical condition and don't already have an ID, I recommend one. If not from them, from somewhere -- the Internet will toss out a million options if you type the phrase "stylish medical IDs" in your search engine of choice.

Thanks again to my cousin, a retired EMT, who first convinced me that I needed one. He said that because of my gender and relatively young age, a first responder who found me unconscious wouldn't think "heart disease" first.

(For those of you playing along at home, I've posted the link above to my FB page and to the WomenHeart and heart disease communities on Inspire, as well.)

(Photo (c) Paul Cory, my husband.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

But what about the men?

At almost every event where I'm working in my capacity as a WomenHeart Champion, some dudebro will come up to me and say some variation on, "Where's the men's group?"

Then they get a smug look on their faces as if they've just scored a major "Gotcha!" and they scuttle away, oh so pleased with themselves for their clever little bon mot.

Oh honey, I want to say to them, it's ALWAYS about the men.

Almost 75 percent of the research on heart disease in the US is done on men; women comprise only 27 percent of heart disease research subjects in this country.

91 percent of family doctors are unaware that heart disease kills more WOMEN than men each year--medical professionals whose job it is to know these things DON'T KNOW.

Women who present with the exact same symptoms as men are often told that it's our gall bladder, it's anxiety, it's stress, it's acid reflux, anything but what it actually is--our hearts.

(Facts and figures above are from the WomenHeart website and the American Heart Association website.)

A study was done a few years ago where groups of doctors were given imaginary case histories for one of two patients, either a 47-year-old male or 56-year-old female. Aside from the age, everything else was identical. The two patients had all the risk factors for a heart attack; some of the case histories, male and female, also included a note about job stress.

In the case studies where stress was a factor, the majority of the doctors--a mix of family physicians and internists--referred the male patient to a cardiologist; the majority referred the female to a psychologist.

Read that again: the man gets sent to a cardiologist; the little woman gets told that it's all in her head.

(That's from a study done by Gabrielle R. Chiaramonte; details here.)

As if that's not enough, check out this ABC news video on ingrained, institutionalized medical sexism. Ladies, brace yourselves for a blood pressure spike:

'Medical Sexism': Women's heart disease symptoms often dismissed |

Women are less likely than men to receive life-saving clot-busting drugs, less likely to even receive simple treatments like an aspirin or a nitro patch. Women are less likely to be referred for cardiac rehab. Women have a 28 percent increased risk of dying as compared to men within the first year after a heart attack (perhaps because of the fact that we're less likely to get adequate treatment, as noted).

(And those stats and figures are from, respectively: Dey S, Flather, MD, Breiger D, et al. "Sex-related differences in the presentation, treatment and outcomes among patients with acute coronary syndromes: the Global Registry of Acute Coronary Events." Heart. 2009;95(1):20-6; and Curtis LH, Al-Khatib SM, Shea AM, et al. "Sex Differences in the Use of Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators for Primary and Secondary Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death." JAMA. 2007;298(13):1517-1524.)

It's not "us versus them" in that we women heart patients and advocates are taking something away from the male heart patients. What we're striving for is EQUAL access to correct diagnoses and treatment.

In order to do that, we have to address the current inequalities--you can't change the fact that because you're male, you're automatically going to be treated differently if you complain of chest pain than a woman is going to be.

In general, men don't have to fight to be believed if they show up in a doctor's office and say that they think they're having a heart attack.

We do. We have. Every single day.

That's part of WomenHeart's mission--to educate women (and men) about heart disease, our #1 killer, to educate the medical community, and to advocate for equal access and treatment.

We don't want to take away the men's piece of pie (access to accurate diagnosis and correct treatment); we want to ensure that everyone has pie.

And everyone wants pie, right?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Still Alive and Kicking

My husband is 43, I'm 42 (will be 43 in a few months). This is us:

Yes, I had a heart attack almost two years ago--about three months after the picture above was taken, in fact.

Yes, counting multivitamins, I'm on about 8 pills/day.

Yes, I wear a medical ID bracelet now.

Yes, I try to be in bed by 11:30pm most nights, especially worknights.

Yes, if I'm in a phase of being serious about my workouts, I hit the gym most nights after work, which does put a crimp in the ol' social life.

Because I'm not home and presentable until around 8:30pm, and I haven't even had supper yet.

I also don't want to go out to places that allow smoking, because my hair is tailbone-length, and washing smoke out of all that hair, then waiting for it to dry, takes a long time (using a dryer on it would fry it).

So that limits what I'm even interested in doing on a weeknight--no bands playing in smoky clubs, for example. On a weekend, it's easier for me to deal with getting all the smoke out of my hair and clothes. During the week, I just don't have time for that mess. Plus, I don't smoke, and I don't like breathing smoke. If there's a good enough reason, I'll put up with it, but really? I plain don't like it.

When I do go out, I don't drink more than two beers, at most. I can't remember the last time I was well and truly drunk, complete with hangover. Eventually I figured out that the cost-benefit wasn't working for me: the few hours of being buzzed weren't worth spending the entire next day feeling like someone was pulling out every single hair on my head, individually.

On the other hand, I'm *also* not gumming the 4pm K&W early-bird special, then hopping into my long granny flannel nightgown, taking my teeth out, pulling up my Depends, and going to bed by 7pm.

So what do I do on my weeknights after work and gym?

Sometimes I go out to events at bookstores: author appearances, book signings, that sort of thing.

I host a monthly book club meeting.

Once every two months, I host a women's heart disease support group.

My husband and I go out to dinner with friends.

We have board games nights.

A lot of times when I get home from work and the gym, after my shower, if I'm not going back out again, I'll get into whatever I plan to sleep in: usually lounge pants and a comfy shirt.

While I may be in my jammies by 8:45pm, by no means does that mean I'm going to bed at 8:45pm.

What it means is that I've gotten comfortable in my own home, and I'm relaxing after work and working out.

I have heart disease--but I'm still above ground. And I plan to stay that way.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

SCAD--A Website of Our Own

If you've had a SCAD, a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, and have been floundering around, looking for information, being scared pantsless by outdated statistics that talk about how more than 70 percent of SCADs are only discovered on autopsy, etc., well, flounder no more. One of my SCAD-sisters has created a website to act as a gathering spot and clearinghouse for information:

Check it out, and share the link.

Friday, Feb. 4th: National Wear Red Day!

It's that time again--break out your finest reds, burgundies, and crimsons, everyone: shirts, skirts, slacks, dresses, ties, scarves, red dress pins, etc.

Friday, February 4th is National Wear Red Day, to raise awareness of women's heart disease.

Celebrate with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's The Heart Truth:

Did you know: 250,000 women in the US die each year from heart attacks? Compare that with around 40,000 deaths from breast cancer.

Heart disease IS preventable--about 80 percent of cases, in fact. But the first step is making people aware that it's a problem.

So wear red on Friday: for you, for me, all the women in your life.