Category Archives: heart disease

How stress can cause a ‘broken heart’

Hello there and welcome back,

February is heart disease awareness month. In my last article, I promised that I would share how stress can cause heart disease.

I recall the first time I met a patient diagnosed with this condition more than seven years ago:

She was close to 80 years old. She came in ‘feeling poorly’ for the last few months. Her husband had died from a chronic illness almost 15 years ago, and she never remarried. Despite being afflicted with constant back pain, she still tried to remain active. She attended regular outings of her red hat society and other senior activities. She was a delight to interview. I admitted her to the hospital, and we began running a battery of tests to find out what was the problem.

By the next day, her test results started to come in. Her heart enzyme levels were dangerously high. But she had never complained of chest pain to explain this. A cardiologist (a heart specialist) was asked to see her. She had a heart test called an echocardiogram. The results of the analysis showed that she had a heart condition called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.

OK before your eyes glaze over, I know this sounds like a mouthful. But let me gently break the news to you- it is also called ‘Broken Heart Syndrome.’ This particular heart condition could be caused by-you guessed right if you said STRESS!

It was first described in Japan and is more common amongst women. The kicker is that either intense emotional or physical stress causes it. Anything from a medical illness, to domestic abuse, heated arguments, devastating financial loss, the death of a close relative. The list goes on. The word ‘Takotsubo’ in Japanese means ‘octopus pot.’ It describes the unique way it causes the bottom part of the heart to balloon up.

It is not sure how precisely takotsubo cardiomyopathy damages the heart. It is thought to be related to the release of a significant amount of the stress hormone called epinephrine released into the bloodstream. Unlike the more common type of heart disease-coronary artery disease- that is caused by blockage of the arteries.

The use of over the counter cold medication called phenylephrine, as well as illicit drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine, can also cause takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

It can cause the same symptoms as a heart attack like chest pain. Some patients may have shortness of breath (like my patient) or have a fainting spell.

The good news is that takotsubo cardiomyopathy if discovered and treated early is reversible. The sad story is that if left untreated eventually the heart muscle becomes too weak and can eventually lead to heart failure. Unfortunately, this was the case for my lovely elderly patient.

I share this information with you because it became clear to me that just as stress is insidious in our lives, so can it’s effects be in our hearts.

Who would believe that a heart could break from our life experiences?

The truth is that there are far too many women out there just like my patient. They are going through life oblivious to the effects that stress has on them.

They are our sisters, our neighbors, mothers, co-workers, and yes- even ourselves.

How many times have you felt a twinge of chest pain and chalked it down to ‘just stress’? Now I’m not saying to you that every twinge that you feel is a heart attack about to happen. What I am saying is that as women we have been given an ‘innate knowingness’ about our bodies. It is called a woman’s intuition. It is that intuition that signals that heart pain (ache). Then we dismiss it as ‘only stress.’ It is our body’s inner knowingness signaling us to stop and pay attention, to search within.

I know from firsthand experience as a primary care provider that being diagnosed with a chronic illness such as type 2 diabetes adds another layer of stress. But I am also here to assure you it does not have to be this way.

I do not want to see one more woman suffer from a broken heart.

It is my vision to form a TRIBE of likeminded women who want to THRIVE and experience ‘stress less’ lives.

Here are some things you can start doing today:

  • Pay attention to the signals that your body sends to you. Be still, take notice, and check within.
  • If these symptoms persist, please schedule an appointment to see your healthcare provider.
  • If you are not satisfied with the answer that your healthcare provider gives you, please be persistent. Don’t get blown off.
  • Make it a priority to learn how to handle stress
  • If you are a woman living with chronic illness find ways to create a network that supports you.

As always I look forward to your comments.

To your Health and Wellbeing,

 

Health awareness topic: February is heart disease awareness month for women

February is heart disease awareness month for women. A lot of women do not know the facts when it comes to heart disease.

Case in point, there used to be a time when it was thought that women under the age of 50 could not suffer a heart attack. So you can imagine what happened if you were a woman and you went to see your doctor with a complaint of chest pain. Your doctor would probably reassure you that it was not your heart and perhaps you had indigestion or were under a lot of stress and prescribe something for that.

The truth is that there are still some doctors out there that treat their female patients that way. 

And so, it is extremely important if you are a woman that you arm yourself with the facts.

Here are some other facts that you need to be aware of-

  • Women may not have the same symptoms of crushing chest pain as their male counterparts. In fact a significant number of women experience the early signs of a heart attack as a sudden onset of weakness, and not chest pain as our male counterparts do. Now let’s face it, if you were to go to an emergency department complaining that you are feeling weak, more than likely you’ll be sent home with an ‘off work slip’ and admonished to get some rest!! At the same time, not all complaints of weakness indicate a heart attack!!
  • Women who smoke increase the risk of having a heart attack up to two to four times.
  • Under the age of 50 women’s heart attacks are twice as fatal as men. This is all the more reason to be persistent when something just does not seem right.
  • Heart disease will kill six times more women this year than breast cancer.

What happens when you suffer a heart attack?

When you suffer a heart attack, the blood supply to an area of the heart muscle gets blocked off. Sometimes the blockage may not be a complete blockage and blood can still get by to the heart muscle. This is called ischemia or angina. The classic symptoms are chest pains, chest discomfort, and chest heaviness. Sometimes the pain may go down the left arm.

Or as women we may have what is called ‘atypical symptoms’ like unusual weakness, heartburn, dizziness, etc. 

But remember just as I pointed out, some women may not have the classic presentation of ischemia. The good news is that if the blood supply is restored at this point, then no permanent damage occurs to the heart muscle.

When the blood vessel to a particular are of the heart remains blocked for a period of time, eventually the heart muscle begins to die off. This is when a heart attack happens; the damage cannot be reversed and the heart muscle dies and it is replaced by scar tissue. Scar tissue reduces the functioning of the heart and eventually causes heart failure and death.

What you can do today:

  • Become knowledgeable about your risk for heart disease.Schedule your annual physical and get to know your numbers! These numbers include- your blood pressure, fasting lipid profile (cholesterol), and blood sugar.  If any of these numbers are outside of normal range then take action and work on getting them back to normal. For more information on knowing your numbers click here
  • Even if you do not have a family history of heart disease you can still be at risk!
  • If you smoke then quit. No more excuses! It’s still early in the year and you know you can do it.
  • If you are obese or even over 10% of your ideal body weight, then commit to losing weight.
  • If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, then make sure that you are being treated by a licensed healthcare professional. Do not ignore this part of your care. Denial only worsens things in the long run.
  • Find ways to cope with stress in your life. Stress is so prevalent that we as humans do not believe they can live a stress free life. It is our perception of stress that matters and what we do to modulate its effects. Stress can lead to a particular type of heart disease in women called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. I will be writing more about this in a follow up article later this month as this is something I think women need to be educated about.

Now more than ever we as women need to become more pro-active in our overall health and wellbeing. We need to stop making excuses for poor lifestyle choices. More importantly we need to accept that these lifestyle choices not only shorten our lives, but also the quality of the life that we have left. I’m not sure about you but I want to be healthy, vibrant and THRIVE well into my 90s and beyond! And I’m looking for my TRIBE of like-minded women to join me.

For more information about my working with me {click here}

Here’s to your health and wellbeing,

Today’s Health Awareness Topic – Women and Heart Disease

 

heart healthFebruary is heart health month. I am committed to helping women, especially women living with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, learn all they can to enhance their health and wellbeing.

But I have found that a lot of women do not know the facts when it comes to heart disease. Only 54% of women know that heart disease kills more women than breast or lung cancer.
According to the most recent statistics by the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States in women over the age of 35 years.

Although the rate of death from heart disease for men has dropped in the last thirty years, they have not done so for women. In 2013, heart disease was responsible for killing close to 290,000 women. This translates to 1 in every 4 women dying due to heart disease.

There used to be a time when there was a general belief in the medical community that women under the age of 50 could not suffer a heart attack. So you can imagine what happened if you were a woman and you went to see your doctor with a complaint of chest pain. Your doctor would usually reassure you that it was not your heart and perhaps you had indigestion or were under a lot of stress and prescribe something for that.

As a woman it is extremely important to arm yourself with facts about your heart health.

Some other heart health facts that you need to be aware of:

  • Heart disease will kill six times more women this year than breast cancer.
  • 71% of women do not experience the early signs of a heart attack as chest pain as do men. They may experience a sudden onset of weakness. Almost 2/3rds of women who die suddenly of heart disease did not have any symptoms.
  • Women who smoke are twice as likely to have a heart attack as men who smoke. The risk of a heart attack is 19 years earlier than women who do not smoke. So think about it, if you are a woman and you have been smoking since you were in your teens (which by my experience is the time that most people start a bad habit like smoking ☺), then your risk of having a heart attack begins to rise toward your forties.
  • Type 2 Diabetes increases a woman’s risk of developing heart disease. Women living with diabetes who have had a heart attack have double the risk of having a repeat heart attack in their lifetime or developing heart failure.
  • Women with metabolic syndrome have an increased risk of developing heart disease, especially at a younger age.
  • Women under the age of 50 have twice the risk of dying from a heart attack as men in the same age range. This is all the more reason to be persistent when something does not seem right. I have often shared that as women we have an inner knowingness about ourselves and/or situations. This is called intuition and you can learn to use it to guide you in all aspects of your life.
  • Marital stress worsens the outcome of a heart attack.

What happens to you when you have a heart attack?

When you develop a heart attack, the blood supply to an area of the heart muscle gets blocked off. Sometimes the blockage may not be a complete blockage and blood can still get by to the heart muscle. This is called ischemia or angina. The classic symptoms of angina are chest pain, chest discomfort, and chest heaviness. Sometimes the pain or discomfort may go down the left arm or into the jaw.

As women we may have what is called ‘atypical symptoms’ like unusual weakness, heartburn, dizziness, etc.

But remember just as I pointed out, some women may not have the classic presentation of a heart attack or angina.

The good news is that if the blood supply is restored at this point, then no permanent damage occurs to the heart muscle.

When the blood vessel to a particular are of the heart remains blocked for a period of time, eventually the heart muscle begins to die off. Sometimes the damage cannot be reversed and the heart muscle dies and it is replaced by scar tissue. Scar tissue reduces the functioning of the heart and eventually causes heart failure and death.

It is important to get to an emergency room as soon as possible if you develop any symptoms suspicious for a heart attack. This is because the sooner you get intervention by a heart specialist to open up the blocked vessels the less the risk of permanent damage to your heart.

What you can start doing today:

  • Become knowledgeable about your risk for heart disease. Even if you do not have a family history of heart disease you can still be at risk!
  • If you smoke then quit. No more excuses! It’s still early in the year and you know you can do it.
    If you are obese or even over 10% of your ideal body weight, then commit to losing weight.
  • Schedule your annual physical and know your numbers! These numbers include- your blood pressure, fasting lipid profile (cholesterol), and blood sugar. If any of these numbers are outside of normal range then take action and work on getting them back to normal.
  • If you have high blood pressure or borderline diabetes or type 2 diabetes, then make sure that you are being treated by the appropriate healthcare professional. Do not ignore this part of your care. Denial only worsens things in the long run.
  • Find ways to cope with stress in your life. Stress is so prevalent that we as humans do not believe they can live a stress free life. It is our perception of stress that matters and what we do to modulate its effects.

Now more than ever we as women need to become more pro-active in our overall health and wellbeing. We need to stop making excuses for poor lifestyle choices. More importantly we need to accept that these lifestyle choices not only shorten our lives, but also the quality of the life that we have left. I’m not sure about you but I want to be health and vibrant into my 90s and beyond!

My mission in creating this blog is to provide a whole person approach to living with type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

Along those lines, over the next few months, in addition to the release of my updated book, Dr. Eno’s A-Z Guide to Living Powerfully with Type 2 Diabetes’, I will  be rolling out several programs. I look forward to working closely with those who are willing to invest the time and effort to enhance their health and wellbeing.