Monday, March 05, 2007

The Cure

All I have to say is, forget Cirrhosis! Forget kidney failure! Forget breast cancer! And forget the mirage of other irrelevant diseases that WebMD has burned into my mind!

I just found out that more than three-quarters of American women get heart disease at some point in their life; that it’s the number one killer of women in this country; and that its death toll surpasses all types of cancers combined! More than 350,000 women die from heart disease every year; that’s more than eight times the amount of deaths by breast cancer. (Wow, I should submit my resume. A couple articles and I sound like a seasoned member of the American Heart Association.)

Worrying about a disease that you have a 75% risk of getting is not crazy! It’s not dramatic or hypochondriac-like. So, I am pleased to unveil the new Leila V., no longer a hypochondriac; re-categorized as a health-conscientious individual, who is rightfully concerned with heart-disease. Yes!


Heather said...

Wait until you're 40 to start with that worry. Pre-menopausal woman are protected.
I read some of your story and thought I'd share:
I have a disabled sister and have realised my health anxiety is a version of "survivor guilt" and also being sick the only way I felt I could genuinely get my parents attention. Just saying is all.

tl23 said...

Congratulations on your new status -- being health-conscious beats hypochondria any day. However, while I'm all for checking out any heart-related symptoms, I suspect Heather is right and you are currently protected by estrogen. Enjoy it while it lasts, girls!

Those statistics make me wonder, though. How many of the women who die from heart disease are already sick with something else that's going to get them if the heart disease doesn't? Likewise for strokes. Lots of people in nursing homes die from one or the other, but that's often not what put them there in the first place. Lots of times something else weakens the body and then the heart gives out. High numbers bring in the research dollars, though.

You made a comment in another post to the effect that hypochondria is the only normal response in a pharmaceutical society. So true, and the same goes for all kinds of paranoia brought on by too much information. I used to obsess over how many calories were in my food; now I wonder how it's going to make me sick. And that's just one example. It's enough to drive one to live in a cave (except for all the creepy crawly things that could bite and make you sick....)


Anonymous said...

Heather hypochondriacs don't pretend to be sick for attention, they genuinely believe that they are.

Leila V. said...

You’re definitely right. I can vouch that hypochondriacs whole-heartedly believe they are sick. Hell, not only do we believe we’re sick, we take it to a whole other level of developing physical symptoms!

That being said, I think there’s credence to what you say. I touched on this topic in an earlier post, “In the Beginning.”

Similar to your story, my hypochondria developed shortly after my brother was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. I can admit that at first, the need for attention—among other things—played a role, (on a subconscious level, but nonetheless). As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve morphed into a closet-hypo. Aside from the people who stumble upon this blog, and my boyfriend, no one in my personal life knows I’m an anxiety-ridden hypochondriac; at least that’s what I like to think. ;) So, the ploy for attention doesn’t apply to my situation anymore. I think that the behavior itself has just become so engrained in who I am, that’s it’s hard to change.

Oh, and I like the phrase “survivor guilt,” one more complex to add to my list!

You make a good point about women being afflicted with other diseases and merely dying from heart disease. But that leads to me to wonder if had they made the same lifestyle choices that prevent heart disease (exercise, good diet, etc.), would they have ultimately prevented the other diseases too?

I don’t know! You can’t win for losing. One minute they’re telling you to take vitamin supplements, the next they’re telling you they cause cancer. Sometimes I think I’ll take my chances with the creepy crawlers and head to the hills…

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