Wednesday, May 6, 2015

GREAT news!

Today is a big day for women living with heart disease. The Research for All Act of 2015 was introduced in Congress.
The bill shows a concerted effort to promote a greater understanding of sex difference in medicine, which may lead to a reduction of gender disparities in care.
"Historically, women with heart disease have faced misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment," says CEO Mary McGowan.
"Today the medical community has gained a better understanding of the differences between women and men with heart disease.
The Research for All Act of 2015 would help expand this knowledge base and spur the development of cardiovascular drugs, devices, and diagnostics that are safe and effective for women."
Read more about what the Act would accomplish...…/Press…/Press_Release_on_Research_fo.pdf

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Lesson #1 - pay attention here class. There may be a quiz...

I had been experiencing an occasional backache, nausea, and heaviness in my chest off and on for several weeks. The mild discomfort included a tiny cough and shortness of breath. (Later, I would discover that annoying little chronic gasp was my heart's way of recharging itself.)

I ignored the symptoms and continued with my busy schedule which included a heavy work schedule and a full class load at the University of Michigan. One afternoon I took a very rare day off from work and was frantically finishing major research papers for my finals. This time I felt an unusually sharp tightness in my back and chest. For a tiny moment I considered it might be a heart attack. But I didn't have one scheduled in my day planner, and frankly, I just didn't have the time... It wasn't a convenient day to die.

I sat on the sofa and waited for the intense wave of pain and nausea to pass. My skin felt clammy. The pressure increased. It felt as though a huge wall of cement had fallen on my chest. I tried to convince myself that I had food poisoning and ran through a menu of the foods that I had eaten in the last 24 hours that could have possibly caused me to become ill. "Lemme see," I said out loud. Nope. Not food poisoning. I hadn't had anything to eat except Mac 'n Cheese the day before for lunch.

Heart attack? Nope. Not me! No one in my family had ever had serious heart problems and I certainly wasn't going to start the tradition today!

The certainty that I was going to loose consciousness washed over me. I looked down at the floor and thought that I had better get off the sofa quickly and lay down ."I don't want to fall off this couch and break my nose," I declared out loud to my cat. I didn't want to bust up my face and look ugly in my coffin.

I laid down on the floor on my left side and rested my head on my arm. Suddenly I knew I was going to vomit! I crawled on my hands and knees into the bathroom and emptied the contents of my intestines from my tummy to my toes. As soon as my stomach was empty the pain subsided and I convinced myself it was just a little flu. Some sort of inconvenient bug.

I had  more of these events within the next few weeks. Like aftershocks following a major earthquake they intensified. Never once did I consider the need to call 9-1-1 or to call and make a doctor appointment.

Finally, one Thursday afternoon, a coworker saw me as I leaned against the wall at work, ashen and shaken. He asked what I was doing and I pointed to the bathroom door and the exit from the building. I said, "I am either going in there and throw up or out there and pass out!" He questioned me and then declared that I had just described eight of the seven symptoms of a heart attack. He phoned his cardiologist and made an appointment for me the following morning.

The next day the cardiologist suggested a heart catheterization and scheduled one for the first thing the following Monday morning. It's no big deal, I thought. Nothing's wrong. Just a little indigestion and a whole lotta stress. He prescribed Xanax and Omeprazole and the suggestion that I might want to "try and take it easy."

On Monday, July 1, 2002 I joined him in the cath lab. It's no big deal he told me. I do 60 to 100 of these a day he said. It's nothing to sweat. In the groin and out again he insisted...

And the rest, as they say, is history. I flat lined three times during the procedure. I heard him tell me to look up over my head on the screen where I could watch what he was doing. He was talking softly and encouraging me to watch the miracle of medicine for myself. I heard him say that I have the heart of a race horse and that I could run the Kentucky derby and win. "We are going into the right side now," he told me. And then everything went black...

WomenHeart's Congressional briefing on heart failure in women held on April 28th, 2015

Key recommendations to improve outcomes for women living with heart failure

As part of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease’s national patient education campaign on heart failure and women, the organization has just released findings from its first national research on heart failure and women. Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalizations in women over the age of 65¹, and women account for 50 percent of all heart failure-related hospital admissions² yet only 25 percent of women are involved in heart failure research studies.³ Women with heart failure tend to experience a greater burden of symptoms, such as depression, and a reduced quality of life, compared to men.

In November 2014, WomenHeart introduced a national patient survey designed to gain a better understanding of how women are managing their heart failure. Additionally, between November 2014 and April 2015, WomenHeart also conducted two telephone focus groups and two in-person patient roundtable discussions composed of women heart failure patients to learn how heart failure affects women’s health and their lives.

Research participants identified key areas where improvements are needed to help them manage their heart failure:
·         Reduce misdiagnoses of heart failure in women, which are preventing or delaying proper treatment
·         Address mental health issues associated with heart failure
·         Enhance patient education for women heart failure patients
·         Remove barriers to cardiac rehabilitation
·         Improve access to support groups for women heart failure patients
·         Improve two-way doctor-patient communication
·         Expand access to insurance coverage
·         Provide information to women heart failure patients on how they can get involved in heart health awareness activities

After reviewing the results of the heart failure survey, patient roundtables, and patient focus groups, WomenHeart conducted a Key Opinion Leaders work session to come up with recommendations to improve diagnosis, care and quality of life of women heart failure patients. The following top recommendations came out of the Key Opinion Leaders work session:
·         Physicians and other health care providers should receive continuing education that includes sex and age sensitivity as well as cultural competency, listening skills, and a holistic approach, so they can better address the specific medical needs of women heart failure patients – including their unique mental health needs.
·         Medical school and residency training should be modified to build communication skills to improve doctor-patient communication.
·         Health care providers should encourage their women heart failure patients to participate in pre-clinical and clinical research studies to ensure that medicines and devices used to treat women with heart failure have been tested in women.
·         Physicians and other health care providers should consistently talk to their women heart failure patients about the value of cardiac rehabilitation in improving patient outcomes, reducing hospital readmission rates, and lowering health care costs.

“We want to use these important research findings on women and heart failure as a platform to work with our partners in the public and private sectors to increase awareness about heart failure in women and improve the diagnosis and care of all women living with this life-threatening condition,” said Mary McGowan, Chief Executive Officer, WomenHeart. “By working together, we can make a difference in the lives of women living with heart failure and improve outcomes,” she added. 

Learn more about WomenHeart’s national campaign on heart failure and women at:

Special thanks to St. Jude Medical Foundation and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation for supporting the campaign through grants, and to Amgen for sponsoring the campaign.

¹Harvard Women’s Health Watch newsletter, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard medical School, September 2008. Available online at:
²Cleveland Clinic Heart Failure in Women web page. Updated 2014. Available at:
³Harvard Women’s Health Watch newsletter, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard medical School, September 2008. Available online at: