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Archive for the ‘Microvascular Angina’ Category

What’s worse; suspecting you have heart disease or knowing for certain that you do?

If you answered that fear lies more in suspicion, you’d have research to back you up.  But do we really need research to tell us what we already know?

Stating the Obvious

Congratulations, Science!  Another fine example of useless information disguised as ‘research’.  It’s ridiculous to think that good money was spent researching what we already know to be true.  Of course we fear the unknown; especially when it comes to our health.  When something goes wrong, we turn to a doctor.  We ask questions.  When answers don’t come, our minds run wild.  Then we question ourselves.  “What is causing this?  Can they operate?  Am I going to die?”   

Deliver Answers; Not Sound Bites

Anymore it seems that we, Joe Patient, need to rely more on ourselves than our doctor.  While it is true that no doctor can be completely versed in all-things heart disease, one would hope that they could recognize their own limitations. 

We read so much about heart disease; how stress contributes to it, how blood pressure affects it.  But it’s what we do with the information that defines us.  Do we allow what we read to embolden us or lull us into quiet complacency?  Do we rely too heavily on the ‘professionals’ out there or do we take a more proactive approach to our health?  Are we waiting for them to make it right?

Stop Waiting

So much of our time is spent waiting.  We wait for appointments.  We wait for test results.  We wait for answers.  Waiting takes your power away and places it in the hands of someone who doesn’t have chest pain like you do.

An ancient proverb states that ‘Expectation postponed is making the heart sick’. 

Waiting is a luxury your heart doesn’t have.

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If asked if the current state of your heart disease is acceptable, how would you answer?

It’s a tough one; I know.  Just yesterday I was asked this very question.  “If, when we first met, your chest pain and quality of life was terrible, 10 being terrible, what number would you assign your quality of life now?” asked my super-hero of a doctor, Dr. Bairey-Merz.

Looking her straight in the face, I responded, “That’s a tough thing to quantify”.

How do you assign a number to the quality of your life?  Of course, I understood the question.  I realized that she needed a figure to determine where I am on my journey.  How else is she to know what to try next. 

Leaning back in my chair, I looked down at my hands and fiddled with my ring.  Slowly raising my eyes, I assigned a number to my life. 

“I estimate my quality of life currently to be a 3”.  Her face relaxed a bit, but I saw no smile.  “About 75% better than when we first met; would you agree?” she asked. 

That’s when it occurred to me.  Her face gave her away.  This was the best it would ever be.

The Best Compared To What?

Every six weeks I visit my wonderful doctors.  With each passing week, however, something very interesting has happened.   My visits with both Dr. Bairey-Merz and the fabulous Dr. Margo Minissian focus more on managing my condition and less on curing me.  ‘Curing me’….  Only now am I beginning to realize how stupid I was to think that I would be cured.  After all, I have Microvascular heart disease.  You can’t operate on the tiny vessels around your heart. 

Why Compare?

I know my life will not be returning to the old ‘normal’.  To be sure, 75% better is better than 0% better.  Even still, the problem isn’t so much in the number assigned to my quality of life as in having to assign a number. 

It’s hard not to compare.  But remember; comparisons do one of two things; they either make you feel bad because others have it better than you or make you feel better because others have it worse than you.  Either way you lose.

So, I will stop comparing my current self to my old self.  I will stop comparing what I could do then to what I can do now.  I’ll stop comparing — period. 

Call it a compromise if you will.  But life is worth living.  Nothing compares to that.

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“I felt so sorry for you.  I didn’t know how I could help you.  All the doctors you saw said there was nothing wrong with your heart.  It took five years to finally get a doctor to listen”.

The conversation I had with my husband last week nearly broke my heart.  You see, all this time, I had neglected to see how my condition had affected my husband.  It has now been eight years since the onset of symptoms.  Eight years of worry for my family. 

It’s one thing to have to wrap your own mind around a chronic condition.  To somehow express to your family the anguish and worry your constantly feel.  All the while trying your best not to let the acknowledgement crush you.  Sometimes your family understands, most times they act like they do.  How can they fully understand?  I’ve heard it said that to empathize is to feel your pain in my heart.  Perhaps it could be better said, I feel your heart pain in my heart.  Is that even possible?

Help Them Understand

Men are different creatures all together.  If your husband is anything like mine, it’s all about the facts.  While emotion plays into everything in life, when it comes to heart disease, it’s the facts that enable him to react.  So, get your facts straight.  Learn all there is to know about your specific form of heart disease.  Share this information with all those you hold dear.  Thankfully, we have so much more information online than we did even a few years ago.  Websites such as EmpowHER offers health professionals who enable you to ask your health question and get a response with 24 hours.  Free of charge, no less.  So, really, the opportunity for you to take charge of your condition is yours for the taking.

How They Can Help You

First and foremost, let them help you.  Yes, you are the ‘expert’ on your condition and only you can know the depth of its affects on you.  That doesn’t mean that they don’t have anything to contribute.  The best advice you’ll ever receive doesn’t come from within.  It comes from your friends, from your family, and from your online community. 

Second, appreciate them for the situation they find themselves in.  Life was drastically different before you had to go and get heart disease.  Let them take the necessary time required to grasp that concept. 

Healing begins with understanding.

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I ask that question because the term ‘heart disease’ is generic.  Heart disease or cardiopathy is an umbrella term for a variety of different diseases affecting the heart.  It covers all things wrong with the heart, from coronary heart disease to ischemia to heart failure.  This shouldn’t surprise us, however, as the same can be said for cancer.  The term ‘cancer’ obviously covers the nature of the disease.  However, it’s only when you focus on where the cancer lies that one is able to determine appropriate treatment.

Just the same, it took me a while before I realized that I had a specific type of heart disease.  When first diagnosed, I figured one size fit all.  Thankfully, I have a cardiologist who knows the difference; especially as it affects women. 

Information from the Cedars Sinai Women’s Heart Center tells us, “For men, heart disease often manifests as blockage in the large arteries of the heart.  One of the major discoveries of the WISE study is that many women with chest pain or other symptoms have microvascular disease, a narrowing of the small arteries and blood vessels of the heart.  Blood flow to the heart is restricted by fatty plaque buildup, but the restriction does not show up in traditional diagnostic exams.” 

Could It Be Coronary Microvascular Heart Disease?

Information from The Women’s Heart Center continues, “until recently, this difference led physicians to discount the possibility of heart disease in many female patients.  These women often found themselves making repeated visits to physicians and hospitals trying to unravel the mysteries of their symptoms.”

I continue to read of dozens if not hundreds of women asking for advice as to what their symptoms mean.  Tests are run but no conclusive evidence of heart disease is found.  So many of them faced with apathetic doctors who, because this is a relatively new diagnosis, find themselves frustrated and thinking that it’s all in their heads.

Well, it’s not.

Women often experience chest symptoms differently than men.  It’s all of those tiny microvessels that surround the heart that malfunction.  Traditional testing, such as angiograms and EKG’s may not be able to identify the problem; at least not at the outset.  Specialized testing must be done in order to determine if it is in fact CMD.  For instance, there is a specific type of angiogram one can undergo which tests how your microvessels respond to different medications. 

Identifying the Culprit

Only after determining what kind of heart disease you have can you obtain appropriate care.  If you find yourself in the hands of a doctor who is not familiar with CMD, find a doctor who is.  Don’t give up because the answers are out there.

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All of us have called in sick to work at some point in our lives.  When you had your boss on the phone, did you feel the need to over-emphasize your symptoms?  Did you cough just a little bit louder; sound a bit raspier than usual?  Yeah; me too.

It’s quite normal to highlight symptoms in an effort to garner the understanding of those around us.  After all, they don’t know how it feels to have chest pain.  All they have to gauge our condition on is the symptoms we demonstrate.  What, though, if the symptoms are vague and intermittent?  What if you don’t know exactly what’s wrong; you just know something is wrong.  How do you make yourself heard when you don’t know what to say?

It’s All In How You Look At It

“Perception is everything”.  So said somebody much smarter than me.  And isn’t it true?  How we see things isn’t necessarily how others do.  So what does this have to do with heart disease?

Well, for starters, heart disease (and/or heart attack) symptoms in women are vastly different then for men.  No ‘Hollywood’ heart attacks here!  http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20091012/his-and-hers-heart-disease.

What’s important to realize, though, is that you do not have to clamp your chest and fall to the floor in order for your symptoms to be validated.  If you wait for that to happen, you could wake up dead.  So instead, take action!  Quit ignoring that fact that your chest hurts.  Weird stomachache that won’t go away?  Have you asked your doctor about heart disease?  Strange tingling in your left arm, back or up to your jaw? Ever wonder if it’s heart disease? You get the idea.

Point is ladies; only you can take the necessary initiative to find out what ails you.  If you wait for the symptoms to ‘make’ you go to the doctor, you could lose valuable time.

Listen to your body. It has a better perspective than you do.

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