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Why we do what we do: good health information can save lives

Posted By Anthony Komaroff, M.D. On December 28, 2010 @ 1:09 pm In Health,Heart Health,Men's Health,Prevention,Women's Health | Comments Disabled

My colleagues at Harvard Health Publications and I have a mission: to provide accurate, reliable information that will help readers live healthier lives. We work hard to fulfill that mission, and the feedback we get from folks who read our newsletters, Special Health Reports, books, and online health information indicates we are on the right track. Every so often we hear something from a reader that makes me especially proud of the work we do.

This letter was recently sent to the editor of the Harvard Women’s Health Watch:

One of your mailings undoubtedly saved me a lot of grief. (My kids, anyway.) I was aware of a woman’s heart attack symptoms being different from a man’s, and your brochure contained a paragraph confirming that. Early in June I was packing for a trip to celebrate my brother’s 90th birthday, at the same time a ditching project was being done in my back lot. Trying to deal with several matters at the same time is a talent I’ve outgrown, at 88, so didn’t think too much of the sudden fatigue and vague aches I felt in jaw & arms. I crashed for a nap in my recliner, felt OK afterwards, and figured it was just stress. The next day I was ready to leave, but got to thinking of those symptoms, and the fact the brochure had arrived at just that time, and wondered if it was more than coincidence and maybe I should pay attention? Didn’t much like the idea of something happening out in the middle of nowhere, so took myself to the fire hall where an EMT was on duty. He ushered me into the ambulance, did an EKG, and soon I was being helicoptered on doctor’s orders to St. Joseph’s Hospital. There I had 3 stents installed, and they apparently are doing their job. Thank you!

This echoes what a reader of the Harvard Heart Letter told us a couple years ago:

This past Friday the 13th, in the a.m., I attended mass at a nearby church and when I returned home I felt aches across my chest, on my back, and down both arms. I also felt a bit nauseous. I tried to shrug it off thinking that a visit to the gym a few days before was my problem. I sat down in a chair and on a nearby table I spied a copy of the Harvard Heart Letter. We subscribe to this for my wife who has a heart condition. The cover story cited 10 symptoms of a heart attack. I had 4. We called 911. A few hours later a stent was implanted. I was released on Sunday—Father’s Day—and the surgeon’s parting words were, “Tim Russert had a 100% blockage—yours was 98%”. I believe very strongly in the Hand of God. Had I not sat down on that particular chair—and had that particular issue not been there—the outcome might have been decidedly different. My time had not yet come. Thank you.

In the New Year and beyond, the Harvard Health Publications team will continue to bring you honest, practical, on-target information that we hope will make a difference in your life.

From Harvard Medical School and Harvard Health Publications, I wish you good health in 2011.

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