14 posts from February, 2012

How Heart Attack Warning Signs Differ in Women

Posted February 21st, 2012 by

A heart attack is unmistakable, right?  Not exactly.  And especially not if you’re a woman.

Elizabeth Banks in "Just a Little Heart Attack"

We kicked off February by recognizing National Wear Red Day and sharing a hilarious video created by actress Elizabeth Banks for American Heart Month.  In the short piece, a harried working mother begins having strange symptoms one morning, including tightness of the jaw, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, muscle pain and pressure on her chest.  Despite all of this, she remains more concerned about getting her husband and kids off to work and school, respectively.  Her son is the only one to recognize what’s going on, saying “Mom!  I think you’re having a heart attack.”

Part of 2012 Heart Month message is that the warning signs of a heart attack for women can be different than for men.  Unlike the stereotypical image of a man clutching his chest and falling down, heart attacks may appear less dramatic in women.  For example, a woman can experience a heart attack without severe chest pressure (“an elephant sitting on my chest”).  Also, women are somewhat more likely than men to report more subtle symptoms such as back or jaw pain, shortness of breath and nausea/vomiting.  The danger is that even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly.

The Key Statistic Behind This Year's American Heart Month

Would you be shocked to have a heart attack?  That’s what many women report – that they never thought it could happen to them.  As a result, they assume their discomfort must be something more routine like the flu, acid reflux or normal aging.  They also may downplay it in order to put their family’s needs first.  Don’t make this mistake.  A heart attack strikes someone every 34 seconds, and heart disease is the number one killer of women.  So if you think you or someone you love might be having a heart attack – even if the symptoms are subtle – don’t wait more than five minutes before calling 911.

Beyond knowing the warning signs, a little prevention (such as quitting smoking or walking just 30 minutes a day) goes a long way.  Learn your heart attack risk – as well as how you can lower it – with the American Heart Association’s Risk Calculator.


Behind Every Piece of Data Is a Patient

Posted February 17th, 2012 by

(This post has been repurposed from an article written by PatientsLikeMe’s Ben Heywood for eyeforpharma’s Patient’s Week 2011.)

PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder and President Ben Heywood

Real-world, patient-reported data is becoming more important to you, the patient, as well as everyone in healthcare. One source of that data is patient registries.

According to the US Department of Health & Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a patient registry is “a database of confidential patient information that can be analyzed to understand and compare the outcomes and safety of health care.” Ultimately, the goal of capturing and analyzing this data (shared by multiple sources like hospitals, pharmacies, physicians and patients) is to learn from one another and improve healthcare. Like registries, PatientsLikeMe understands the importance of capturing data in a meaningful, computable and quantifiable way.

However, behind every piece of data is a patient.

So, in the spirit of putting patients first, we began thinking about the next generation of a patient registry where you benefit in real-time from what you share. It would need to be a situation where you could openly share longitudinal demographic and clinical data about your disease while using online tools to improve your outcomes. It couldn’t be just silos of health data focused on one disease at a time; it would need to encompass data on all diseases and inspire you to share information about those co-morbidities too.

If this next generation of a “registry” could ensure long-term data sharing, can you imagine how much meaningful insight would be available for patients and industry alike? We could…and that’s what we’ve been building at PatientsLikeMe for the last five years. We’re excited about what that means for patients like you each day, as well as what it means for the future of medicine.

We know you believe in community—we’ve seen it in your one-for-all mindset where you can share what you experience and see the same for every other patient like you; a mindset where you expect us to then pass on those experiences to researchers, companies and others who want to learn together and improve healthcare. When we tell you how we make money (by sharing your de-identified data with our trusted partners), many of you have said, “Great. Share! Share! Share!”

We have no doubt that sharing is the essential ingredient in accelerating research, ensuring patient safety and making better treatments. As we look beyond the chat room and beyond the traditional patient registry, we see a world where patients like you are openly sharing meaningful, computable and quantifiable data with each other to make your lives better…and, in turn, making all of medicine that much better too.

Can you see it too?  Tell us your thoughts on what the ideal patient registry should include.

PatientsLikeMe member bheywood