My new book is out!

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“This is an important book – in fact, indispensable for women and their families whose lives have been affected by heart disease.”

Dr. Barbara Keddy, Professor Emerita, Dalhousie University, Halifax

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My new book, “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease” (Johns Hopkins University Press, November 2017) is now available. It’s based on my award-winning blog, Heart Sisters.  You can read Chapter 1 here (via the press kit at JHUP). Ask for my book at your local bookshop (if they don’t have it yet, get them to order!) or purchase it online at:

If you do order your copy of the book online, please leave a Customer Review after you’ve read it (Amazon or Barnes and Noble). Apparently, these reviews help. . .

 

Bohemian polypharmacy – with a nod to Queen

Bohemian Polypharmacy

Sit back for six minutes or so and enjoy every line of Bohemian Polypharmacy – a parody of Queen’s classic, Bohemian Rhapsody. This time around, it’s a song all about polypharmacy – which is what we call it when we are taking more medicines than we need to.  This is yet another brilliant gem from Canadian pharmacist and professor Dr. James McCormack, with lyric help from David Scotten and creative input from Pete McCormack.  Great vocals are by local Victoria band Aivia members Liam Styles Chang (lead) and Shae Scotten (background).

Dr. James McCormack is half of the brains behind Therapeutics Education Collaboration (TEC), home of the highly entertaining (and educational) BS Medicine podcast (the BS stands for, of course, Best Science). His partner in crime is family physician Dr. Michael Allan. Here’s how they describe TEC:

“The best way to describe us is that we are the ‘mythbusters’ of drug therapy.”
Continue reading

The cardiac miracle cure? Vitamin C, lysine and Dr. W. Gifford-Jones

It all started with a simple question from one of my blog readers at Heart Sisters.  Another heart attack survivor asked me if I’d heard about the use of high-dose vitamin C and lysine to prevent or reverse coronary artery disease, a treatment duo often touted in health food stores. It turns out that almost any Canadian who reads any daily newspaper across our great country has likely heard of these particular supplements, thanks to a syndicated health columnist named W. Gifford-Jones MD whose columns have been published in over 70 newspapers in Canada and beyond.

He’s a University of Toronto- and Harvard-trained MD and author whose bio also includes “family doctor, hotel doctor and ship’s surgeon”. (That’s not his real name, by the way – which is Ken Walker).  In one of his columns published in the Windsor Star in December, the 89-year old Gifford-Jones/Walker described his own personal experience taking this vitamin C and lysine combo:   Continue reading

Can I change my mind about docs on social media?

As regular readers already know, I’ve told some embarrassingly cringe-worthy tales about how some health care professionals are using social media (here, here and here, for example).  In Doctors Behaving Badly Online, I cited studies by Washington, DC researcher Dr. Katherine Chretien and her findings of physicians’ unprofessional” posts on Twitter featuring “very naughty words, potential violations of patients’ privacy, and discriminatory statements.”

Two years ago, when the British Medical Association warned U.K. docs and med students NOT to make “informal, personal or derogatory comments” online about their patients, I became even more alarmed. Why, I wondered at the time, is it even necessary to issue this warning to intelligent, educated brainiacs with the letters MD (or rather, in the U.K., the letters MBBS) after their names?

There are still regrettable cases coming to light about Doctors Behaving Badly Online, but lately, I’ve been rethinking my former suspicion that many health care providers simply have no business wading into social media. And the reason for the rethink is this: physicians are, in essence, abdicating their role as our medical educators. Continue reading

Survivorship bias: when we focus only on success

We were sitting around with friends and family recently over some very nice red wine when our friend Noel asked me about my weekly Toastmasters meetings, and specifically about whether I thought there are some people who simply never learn to feel comfortable speaking in public even after Toastmasters training. After a moment’s contemplation, I replied to Noel:

“I can’t really say – because those who actually feel too uncomfortable probably just stop attending after a while. The ones who stay seem pretty happy!”

It turns out that what I was describing is essentially what’s known as survivorship bias.*  Continue reading

Statin guidelines we love to hate – and the docs who write them

Here at Ethical Nag World Headquarters, it’s been quite the week ever since the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released their new cardiovascular disease treatment guidelines, which I have taken the liberty of sub-titling:

“If you have a detectable pulse, you need to be taking statins!”

For more specifics on the guidelines – including the list of four newly-identified  groups of people whose heart health will benefit from taking cholesterol-lowering medicationoops, I mean statins only – every day for the rest of their natural lives, read yesterday’s Ethical Nag post, Can Statins Prevent My Head From Exploding?

What happens next? Your doctor will now review all 284 pages of the new guidelines, and then, in a bonding moment of shared decision-making, the two of you will soon sit down together to decide upon just the right course of action – oops, I mean drug prescription – based on what the guideline authors have recommended, in turn based on an (allegedly) flawed risk calculator that’s predicted to significantly increase the very large pool of daily statin-using drug takers, even among healthy individuals formerly considered low-risk for future cardiovascular disease.

But first, let’s set off for a behind-the-scenes visit to the people who actually write these treatment guidelines.  Continue reading