Your biggest threat isn’t necessarily what you think it is

My ex-wife once asked me to accompany her when she went for a mammogram. It wasn’t a perverse “that’ll show you, you bastard kind of thing” but was based on the fact that the process unnerved her and she wanted my moral support during the process.

“Sure,” I replied. No big sacrifice. Just her naked boobs being scanned. What sort of problem could that be? Thank God I restrained myself from making the observation that in my mind she was just “being silly about it.”

And so I went. And “ewww”. That’s what I say. “What an unpleasant little indignity, and painful to boot. Sort of took a little of the fun out of what crass men (of course I’m not one of them, really I’m not) deem to be a kind of playground and not much more.

There’s a jape about this that involves the testicles that is directed at unfeeling men. It gives an idea of how it goes, and it goes not nicely.

Anyway, breast cancer is a reality and commendations are due to the tireless campaigners in their quest to find a cure for a major killer of the women we are or the women we love.

However, and this was a big eye-opener for me, and it may be for the lot of us. Breast cancer is not ‘the’ major health threat leading to premature mortality for women.

The big one – biggest by far – is heart disease. Wait! Coronaries! Coronaries happen to overweight, heavy-boozing and probably heavy-smoking, stressed and frustrated mid-management guys attempting a Cialis seduction of a young-enough-to-be-his-daughter babe in a sleazy motel? Right. And with the operative word being ‘guys’. You know the routine: the sweating, palpitations, aching arm, vomiting and intense chest pain. You’ve seen it a few dozen times in movies and TV shows.

Well, yeah. That’s a reality, no doubt. But it’s not the only reality. Heart disease is the major killer of women, and it trumps all cancers combined. Chilling enough, but even more chilling is that a lot of people, women especially, do not recognize this reality.

These observations arise from the fact that I write the newsletter for our local hospital foundation and for the most recent one I carried out an interview with a woman who’d had a massive coronary at age 51. A coronary that led to triple bypass and, in her case, a coronary that evinced all the classic male symptoms of such a life-threatening event.

In that, she says, she was lucky only I the sense that she realized what was happening and dealt with it right away.

Most women, she added, aren’t so ‘lucky’ and their heart distress can go largely undetected. Women, she believes, and justly so, must be aware of that and must consider their stress levels, their family histories, blood pressure, cholesterol, life-style habits and so forth. They must be aware of what their really big threat is, and it just might not be what they thought it was.

So, to all the women who might read this; women for whom I have great regard, take whatever care you need to take. I cherish having you around.






12 responses to “Your biggest threat isn’t necessarily what you think it is

  1. Thanks for the permission, Ian!
    I have been struggling with how much I can let go, let life flow rather than always pushing somewhere, for something.
    In India, with time to notice such things, I discovered that my body gives me very clear indications of stress. I started to listen, and change my behaviour as I noticed. You reminded me that I must remember to listen, to take time to notice now that I am home.
    That would make India a life-changing experience.

    • Taking time to listen is surely something we all should be doing. And it was a delight following your adventures in India. As I once stated I grew fatigued just following your itinerary as enjoyable as it was.

  2. Kuddos to you for writing this. I hope every woman you know reads it. I’ve written a similar post or two myself and will write an addendum to the last now. Thanks for you last comment to me. I was able to confer with two nurses to whom I read the letter sent by the facility at which my mammography was done. They spoke to the doctor and called the imaging facility. They were sent a revised report, and are sending a copy to me. Doc says there isn’t anything to worry about.

    • I am so happy about your news. And thank you for the compliments on this posting. It was something that I felt should be stated because I think many (and especially woman) seem to be oblivious to this ‘other’ reality.

  3. I recall reading something, years ago, about most of the studies being done on men only, and when a few heart disease studies were done on women only, the researchers were rather astounded that the symptoms could be so different. Thanks for posting that list – I’ll add it to the collection on my fridge, right next to the info on signs of stroke!

    • Isn’t getting older grand, my dear? But, it’s all reality, too. And your point is well-taken in that earlier studies focused almost exclusively on men and that was a grievous error.

  4. Oh fun, something else to worry about… Anxiety – check, Indigestion – check, Sleep disturbances – check. Of course those are also symptoms of menopause.

    Well, at least I don’t live in Syria, that’s a plus!

    • I know. I ran them past Wendy and she said yep, that’s me to a T. And that’s the problem with so many of these warnings. Yet, talking to the woman I interviewed it was all quite chilling. On the other hand, and I’m a big believer in the genetic component of the equation, heart disease ran rampantly in her family.

  5. Very different symptoms to those in men and, as such disregarded.
    I think younger women are becoming more conscious of their own health rather than worrying only about family members.
    Good for you for putting up this post…the word still needs to be spread.

    • Thank you for the compliment. I felt it needed to be stated because I found the interview I conducted to be an eye-opener for me and felt I should share some of what I found out. And yes, I think it has long been a nurturing tendency of women to worry more about family members than themselves.

  6. Good news is, as your breasts lose their general attractiveness, the discomfort of the exams goes down too. In other words, everything goes down. Everything.

    Women sometimes have different sorts of symptoms of a heart attack. Two of my acquaintance have had attacks recently and both felt mostly “odd.” Paying attention to odd is important.

    • Yes, sigh, everything does go down. Damn forces of gravity. Anyway, your comment about women and heart attack symptoms was very apt and I thank you for it. Indeed, pay attention to ‘odd’. If we listen to our bodies we all know when something isn’t right.

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