heart attack

2012 Top 10 Health Lists

December 5, 2012 at 9:34 am , by

Don’t you just love those end-of-year top 10 lists? Time magazine’s “Top 10 Everything of 2012” is a must-read—even if just to disagree with the editors. (Their #4 pick on the movie list was my fave.) Don’t miss the health-related lists. The Top Medical Breakthroughs are fascinating, while the Top 10 Ridiculously Obvious Study Findings provide a fun “duh” moment.

Our friends at Yahoo! just released their Year in Review, too—covering everything from the serious (Libya, the election) to the sublime (Mars Rover, the U.S. women’s gymnastic team) to the ridiculous (Gangnam style, Honey Boo Boo). The trends based on the daily search habits of millions of people include health, too, of course. Among the top 10 searched health symptoms of 2012 on Yahoo!, four were stories we covered in a major way in the pages of Ladies’ Home Journal. Here’s something surprising we learned about each:

1. Diabetes
No surprise this was number 1, as the numbers are skyrocketing. Nearly 26 million people in the United States have diabetes now, according to the CDC, while another 80 million may have prediabetes. And women are more at risk of dying from it, we learned in the story that ran in our September issue. You’ve probably heard that the major warning signs are being really thirsty and having to pee all the time. But those symptoms usually show up only after damage has already been done. “Early on, especially in the prediabetes phase, most people have no symptoms at all,” says Gerald Bernstein, M.D., director of the diabetes management program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. That’s why it’s so important to get a glucose test, especially if you’re overweight.

2. Lung cancer
Lung cancer kills more women than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined, yet it gets the fewest research dollars of any cancer. That’s one of the things we learned in our touching story by Wesley Fay, “Just Breathe,” in our November issue. Each breast cancer death correlates with $19,419 in federal research funding. For lung cancer, that plummets to $1,888. This gap has real consequences: Since the early 1970s, breast cancer’s five-year survival rate climbed from 75 to 90 percent, while lung cancer’s barely budged from 12 percent to 16 percent. Blaming the victim won’t help: 20 percent of women with lung cancer never smoked, and experts say those numbers are climbing.

4. Colon cancer
Doctors are seeing colon cancer in younger people more than ever, we learned in our October story on colon health. “For women, getting a colonoscopy at 50 or sometimes even sooner is crucial, especially since I’ve been seeing women as young as their 30s being diagnosed—and with no family history,” says Robynne Chutkan, M.D., medical director of the Digestive Center for Women in Washington, D.C., and a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. Don’t ignore symptoms such as blood in the stool, unusual abdominal pain, a change in how often you go to the bathroom, anemia or unexplained weight loss. For more information, read our candid interview with Dr. Chutkan.

6. Heart attack
When Rosie O’Donnell had a heart attack in August at age 50, she scared the crap out of a lot of women. (I’m one of them!) She researched online and knew her symptoms could be a heart attack. She even took an aspirin. But she didn’t call 911. That happens way too often, says cardiologist Holly Andersen, M.D., a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. In our blog that week, we learned that “40 percent of women having a heart attack never feel chest pain,” says Dr. Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital. For lots more information on women and heart disease, see our February story, “Heart of the Matter.”

Photo copyright Ocskay Bence, Shutterstock.com

You Could Be Having A Heart Attack

August 22, 2012 at 9:48 am , by

On Monday Rosie O’Donnell reported on her blog that she had a heart attack. She knew she was having symptoms that could be a heart attack. She Googled it. She even took an aspirin. But she didn’t call 911. That happens way too often, says cardiologist Holly Andersen, M.D., a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. I called Dr. Andersen as soon as I heard. She’s director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital and has been a key source in several LHJ stories on women and heart disease, so I knew she’d have a lot to say about this.

JB: Rosie O’Donnell is 50 years old. She looks like the average American woman. She probably thought it couldn’t happen to her and was in denial, right?

HA: Right, and that’s why we need to raise awareness. She thought she was having a heart attack and took an aspirin. That is denial and making excuses: “It can’t be me. I don’t have time for this right now.” And that’s why we have to get the message out that it can be you.

JB: But she seems to be okay.

HA: She’s very lucky to be alive. If she had a 99 percent blockage in her left anterior descending artery, the so-called widowmaker, it could have closed off and she could have had sudden death. Younger women who have a heart attack are more likely to die from it.

JB: Why do more women die from heart attacks?

HA: Right now a young woman who has a heart attack in this country will wait longer before going to the emergency room, will be less likely to have classic symptoms of a heart attack, will be less likely to have a diagnostic electrocardiogram and consequently will be less likely to be diagnosed correctly. But even if she is diagnosed correctly, she will be less likely to get all the life-saving treatments she needs. And even if the decision is made to give them to her, they will be given, on average, 13 minutes later than they’re given to a man. Those of us who treat heart attacks have a saying: Time is muscle. But even when you control for all of those variables, a woman will still be more likely to die from a heart attack than a man, and the youngest women have the greatest death discrepancy rates compared with men. We don’t know why.

JB: Are women’s heart-attack symptoms really that different from men’s?

HA: Instead of feeling like an elephant is sitting on her chest, a woman may feel pain in her back, shoulders, neck or jaw. She may feel dizzy and sweaty, have extreme fatigue or shortness of breath. However, pretty much everybody recognizes that there is something wrong. It’s not okay to just go to your doctor. If you think you’re having those symptoms, call 911 and get to the emergency room.

JB: So don’t be embarrassed or worried that the doctors might think you’re overreacting?

HA: Oh God, no. We’d much rather be taking care of indigestion in the ER than missing heart attacks. I have this patient who’s a life coach. She went into atrial fibrillation, and her heart was racing so much she felt like she was going to die. So what did she do? She went into her bedroom, put on nice clothes, put on makeup, packed everything, then told her friend and then called 911. Men don’t do that. It’s insane!

Heart disease is the biggest killer of women, and we’re losing the battle. We need to get women to understand that they’re at risk and get them to help us fight the battle. So let’s raise awareness, talk to each other, try to practice risk reduction. But if you think something’s wrong, absolutely call 911. Rosie was really lucky—but you might not be.

Click here for more heart health resources.

Photograph copyright lenetstan, Shutterstock

Lady in Red: A Symbol of Hope

September 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm , by

Last night our new LHJ editorial intern Carisa McLaughlin headed downtown to meet some ladies in red gathered to empower women to put their health first. Here’s her report:

The American Heart Association’s campaign Go Red For Women, along with actress Elizabeth Banks, created a film entitled Just a Little Heart Attack in order to warn women that heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of women.

At the premiere event, there were six courageous women who spoke about their firsthand experiences with heart disease. They varied in age and race and all had unique and touching anecdotes to share. I couldn’t believe one woman’s story. Only 40 years old, she was in the middle of what she said was the best date she’d had in a long time when she thought she was having first-date jitters. Turned out, though, she was actually having a stroke! Yes, it happens. All the special guests there, including Elizabeth Banks (who has a family history of heart disease), expressed how they’ve made it their mission to share what they’ve learned about heart disease with at least five other women. Pass it on!

In the short film directed by and starring Banks, we get a glimpse of a mother’s typical morning ritual—getting ready for work while also rounding up her kids for school and helping out her husband. But the day quickly turns sour as she’s faced with a frightening situation. You can watch Banks’ surprisingly funny film below. But remember that heart disease is no joke.