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Washing Machine Triggers Defibrillator Shock

An interesting case of electrical interference has been reported by Danish physicians in the New England Journal of Medicine. A patient with an implanted cardiac defibrillator was taking a shower when he got zapped twice for no apparent reason. The physicians, speculating on the cause of the events, sent an electrician to the man’s house to see if some type of electromagnetic interference could have been at fault. Turns out that a self-installed washing machine didn’t have its ground cable connected, turning house wiring into the washing machine’s private radio station.

More about the story at Discover Health News

Article extract in NEJM: Inappropriate ICD Shocks Caused by External Electrical Noise

**This blog post was originally published at**

Passion Meets Fashion: NHLBI’s “Heart Truth” Campaign Hits the Runway with Diet Coke


It’s definitely not your mother’s public health campaign.

When the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) launched the Heart Truth campaign seven years ago to raise awareness of women’s heart health their partners were your typical patient groups and professional medical societies.

Not anymore.  Today, their front row partner is Coca-Cola.  Diet Coke that is.

Dr. Val and I were among a small group of women’s health advocates who met last week to hear the latest on NHLBI’s campaign with Diet Coke and how the fashion industry is bringing an important public health message to women.

Diet Coke’s commitment to the Heart Truth campaign is unprecedented, one of the “largest public awareness initiatives we have ever undertaken,” said Celeste Bottoroff, VP Living Well, Coca-Cola North America.

Leading Diet Coke’s campaign?  Endless-legs Heidi Klum and other fashion-conscious women who have revamped the little red dress campaign into a national symbol with guts, curves and most importantly results.

“In 2002, only 34% of the women in this country knew heart disease was the leading cause of death among American women,” Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, NHLBI director, told the group. “But we’re making progress.  Today, as a result of the Heart Truth campaign and others like it, 65% of the women now know it’s the number one killer.”

Nabel led a discussion of the common myths associated with women’s heart heath and recalled her own experiences as a cardiology resident when women were caregivers who supported husbands, fathers and other male family members through heart ailments but often ignored or brushed aside their own symptoms for fear that treatment would interfere with domestic chores such as childrearing, cooking, and cleaning.  “Even when older women came in with heart problems, they weren’t treated as aggressively as men,” Nabel admitted.

“Most women still need educating,” she remarked.  “80% of middle-aged women still have at least one risk factor for heart disease.  And just one, doubles your risk of actually having heart disease.”

Joining Nabel were Phyllis Greenberger, President and CEO of the Society for Women’s Health Research, Susan Bennett, MD, Clinical Director of the George Washington University Hospital’s Women’s Heart Program and Robyn Flipse, MS, RD, author and nutrition consultant to discuss the campaign’s most important messages.  First, heart disease is not a man’s disease, a point often raised by group’s such as those headed by Greenberger who cited research  indicating that only 17% of cardiologists and 8% of primary care physicians know that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women.

And it’s not just for the aged either. “When a 40 year old woman has heart disease it’s worse than a 40 year old man,” said Bennett recalling patients in their 20s and 30s in her practice.   “It’s never too late to change your lifestyle,” Flipse added.  “The body is very forgiving.  Even a 10% drop in weight can have a positive impact on blood pressure, cholesterol and other important risk factors.”

The Heart Truth campaign, thanks to the vision of Dr. Nabel and the willingness of NHLBI to partner with a highly visible, social icon such as Diet Coke is just what’s needed to cut through the feel good messaging that most public health campaigns resort to.  Having lived with heart disease my entire adult life (now well into middle age), it’s a welcome boost of energy and the visibility possible with this campaign is unparalleled.   Along with it comes some very important information that can save women’s lives.

Look for the heart truth emblem on 6 Billion Diet Coke cans, at community public forms, at American Idol, and fashion shows across the country. Diet Coke, with Heidi’s help, has even designed a new red dress label pin which strongly resembles an hour-glass.  And what woman doesn’t want that?

The Friday Funny: Excessive Advertising


From The Heart: A Christmas Story

By Alan Dappen, MD

Twas days before Christmas and all through the house
The doctor was pacing, not telling his spouse.
“It can’t be my heart for it’s healthy and strong;  
I exercise, eat right and do nothing wrong.
I’m hurting, I’m worried, have lingering doubt
I guess that I really should check this thing out.”

I did and the doc said, “Sadly it’s true,
That nobody’s perfect and that includes you…”

So starts my tale about life’s infinite ironies. This past week, I, “the doctor,” became “the patient.” My story is classic, mundane, full of denial, of physician and male hubris that it merits telling again. Like Christmas tales, there are stories that are told over and over again hoping that lessons will be learned, knowing they might not. I was lucky. I was granted a pass from catastrophe and this favor was handed to me by my medical colleagues and all who supported me.

My story began six months ago while playing doubles tennis with friends.  Suddenly I felt the classic symptoms of chest pain. “This is ‘textbook’ heart pain,” I thought. “A squeezing/pressure sensation dead center in the chest.” Running for shots made the pain worse and stalling between points helped. My friends soon noticed a change in my behavior.

To my chagrin, they refused to keep playing. Instead, they wanted to call for help. Indignant, I informed them that the chest pain was caused by my binge-eating potato chips before the match – a fact only a doctor could know.  The sweating was clearly from playing. I was younger and healthier than anyone there.  The pain subsided while we relaxed and joked about “the silly doctor who thinks he doesn’t need help.”

In the next week, the discomfort returned often when I exercised, which I regularly do, including jogging, biking, swimming, and weekly ice hockey and tennis matches. Every activity provoked the pain. “Stupid acid reflux!”  I thought, contemplating giving up my favorite vice –coffee.  Keeping the secret from my wife was easy; she was traveling for business.

Over the next several days I started aspirin, checked my blood pressure (BP) regularly, drew my cholesterol, rechecked my weight. All were normal. Finally I plugged myself into an electrocardiogram (EKG), with the “nonspecific changes” results not reassuring me. I went to a colleague for a stress echocardiogram, and passed. “See!” I congratulated myself. “It was just reflux.”

For five months, all went well, with no memorable pain. But on December 10 “the reflux” came back. On the sly, I restarted aspirin, pulled out the home BP monitor again, and considered cholesterol-lowering drugs “just in case.”

Saturday night into early Sunday morning I played ice hockey. This time the pain was worse.  With my team short on substitutes, I played the entire game.  I dropped into bed exhausted and pain free at 2 a.m., only to be nagged throughout the night with persistent discomfort. I nearly slept through a morning meeting with a medical colleague at Starbucks. To avoid increasing my “reflux” pain, I passed on coffee.

By noon, a feeling of overwhelming inadequacy enveloped me. I withdrew, and my wife, Sara, asked what was wrong. I had to confess to her – and myself – of the reality of the pain in my chest. Sara coaxed my answers from me with non-judgmental techniques learned from years of experience.

“What advice would you give a patient calling you with these symptoms?” she asked.
“If it was anyone else, I’d send them to the ER,” I responded, wanting to stall longer. “I want to check my EKG at the office.”

Once there, she helped me with the wires, hooked up the machine.  She turned the screen toward me with the interpretation to read: “anterior myocardial infarction, age undetermined, ST- T wave changes lateral leads suggestive of ischemia.”

“Stupid machine,” I thought, “there must be something wrong with it.” I insisted Sara redo the EKG. The second reading was the same.  I leaned my head into my hand, not willing to believe what I saw.  “Sara, let’s do it one more time…please.”

She asked, “What would you tell your patient to do?”

“Call 911.”  I said quietly. The words hung there.  At last I handed her the keys, saying, “Drive me to the ER.”

So went the gradual erosion of my denial, emerging into a new reckoning. After a catheterization, the cardiologist used a stent to open my 95% blocked coronary artery. Despite all I did to ruin my chances, modern medicine delivered me a “healthy” heart. This holiday season I got a second chance.

Eating healthy, exercising regularly, sleeping well, being happy, praying regularly, even being a doctor does not save us from the inevitable… sooner or later we are all patients. Healthcare is a critical social asset that must be done right, must be affordable, must offer as many of us in America a second, even a third chance. May we all be thoughtful and willing to compromise to achieve this end.  Amen.

Guest Blog Post At Dr. Wes’: Cardiologists Vs. Electrophysiologists

Thanks to Dr. Wes for hosting me during my recent period of blog homelessness. Please check out his excellent site – here’s my featured post:

It seems in cardiology, things are so tiny: tiny angioplasty balloons, itsy bitsy guidewires to snake down the smallest of coronary arteries. Heck most things they deal with are measured in millimeters: need I say more? Now electrophysiologists, well, I’ve already had my say.

But Dr. Val, today’s guest blogger who transitions from her old space at Dr. Val and The Voice of Reason at Revolution Health to her new site at Getting Better With Dr. Val, notes a new trend in medical marketing to these marvelous medics of the miniature:

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

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