Stories We're Following This Week

News + Insights from around the Web + The Patient's Playbook Bottom Line. 

Why Do So Many Women—and their Doctors—Ignore the Signs of a Heart Attack? 

"Even though heart disease is the leading killer of women of all ages, doctors typically tend to focus more on weight loss and breast health in discussions with female patients." 

—Two new studies find that women are less likely to be told of their risk for heart attack
or receive needed procedures that can save their lives (Reuters)

Bottom Line: Heart attacks affect more women than men, yet women and their physicians still tend to think of it as primarily a man's disease—even when a woman is having classic heart attack symptoms. Be aware of the signs of a heart attack. And communicate your symptoms clearly. Say to emergency responders, "I'm having chest pain," particularly if you are a woman with a known heart condition.

Disturbing Study: Medication errors occur in half of all surgeries



"Most of the clinicians I spoke with... were not surprised with the results. In fact, several commented that they felt the actual number of errors that occur during surgeries was probably much higher."

—According to a new study, 1 out of every 2 surgical procedures at Mass General had drug errors (Forbes)

Bottom line: Hospitals can be dangerous places, but there are things you can do to protect yourself. For actionable steps on avoiding medication errors in the hospital, see Leslie's tips in Chapter 12 of The Patient's Playbook. See also: 6 Things You Can Do to Stay Safe During a Hospital Stay.

Meat Lovers Beware: What You Need to Know About the Risk

ABC News

On Monday, the World Health Organization issued an analysis of the link between processed meats and cancer. So, what's your risk, meat-eaters? Small, according to The New York Times, when compared with smoking or alcohol consumption. But the W.H.O. estimates that eating 50 grams daily of processed meat or 100 grams daily of red meat might increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

Bottom line: Limit your consumption of processed meats (e.g. hot dogs, bacon, ham, beef jerky, canned meats, etc.) and eat more plant-based foods. If you have additional lifestyle or genetic risk factors, talk to your internist about preventive screening for colorectal cancer.

Could Restaurant Reviews Help You Avoid Food Poisoning?



"I ate the shrimp cocktail. I will spare the details, but I started being sick Friday night, then Saturday I was admitted to the ER and then the ICU. The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has already called me for their investigation."

—When a massive outbreak of shigella hit San Jose, Calif., the sick took to Yelp to call out the culprit:
a local Mexican restaurant. (Kaiser Health News)

Bottom line: Studies show that traditional surveillance only captures a fraction of the 48 million yearly cases of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. But consumer websites like Yelp may help public health officials identify outbreaks, and even act as an early warning system—especially when victims don't seek medical care after becoming ill. When it comes to food hygiene, be a savvy consumer. Check Yelp before eating out. And if you become a victim of foodborne illness, always file a consumer complaint with your local health department.