Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Problem with Heart Disease...

...is that we're so good at treating it. People feel so well after their heart attack or stent that they go back to their old bad habits.

I went to visit my patient who is recovering from bypass surgery. He has an inherited lipid disorder, so his cholesterol and triglycerides are much higher than normal people. On top of that, he smokes a pack and a half of cigarettes each day.

At age 35, he had a heart attack. We put a stent in, and he felt better. We told him to quit smoking. He didn't. At 38, he came back with more chest pain. His first stent was clogged and he had a new narrowing of a different coronary artery. So we put a new stent in and opened up the old stent. He continued to smoke. Now at age 40, he had more pain, and last Friday he had bypass surgery.

I told him that now he has to quit smoking. Absolutely has to quit. If he doesn't quit, his bypasses will become blocked or he'll die. NOW he's more motivated and has found some help from nicotine patches.

Remember this: We may inherit bad things that put us at higher risk of heart disease. However, we control our own destiny. Through exercise, not smoking, and eating well, including a well-balanced vegan diet, we can stay healthy for a long time.

4 comments:

lonna said...

That sounds so much like my dad. The only thing that he did after his quadruple bypass was quit smoking. Now I'm thrilled that he did that after 50 years, but still. He needs to do so much more. He can't get his HDL high enough with just medicine. He needs to exercise and eat better, but he won't. He's also convinced that he read somewhere that bypasses only last 15 years! So it's like he's just waiting for the 15 years to go by and then he'll get another one.

Melissa said...

I know what you mean. Its not exactly heart related, but my dad just got diagnosed with an ulcer of the duodenum. Smoking, alcohol, taking aspirin a lot and stress have all been named as factors...but is he going to quit any of that stuff? No, because he's got meds to take care of it for him. It doesn't help that his doctor didn't tell him anything either. He just said how great the medication was.

I love your blog. I used to want to be a cardiologist (as recently as 2 years ago), so its totally cool reading all this stuff about your work!

Danielle said...

High cholesterol runs in my family. Heart disease runs in the family. It's part of the reason I went vegan. Anything to reduce my chances. I've cut way back on my soda consumption.

But you know what, it's so much more profitable to treat the disease than to tell people to eat more fruits, veggies, grains, beans, etc., and cut out the meat, dairy, eggs, etc. If anyone thinks veganism is hard, I think it's much harder to endure repeated operations and take a handful of pills every day.

pjp said...

I am 66 and I just got 2 stents in January. (I realize I am on gifted time). About quitting smoking: I quit in 1974. I smoked 2 packs a day (or more) and typically got up at night to cough and then smoke. i tried many times to quit (switched over to Hava-Tampa cigars and inhaled that, switched to pipes and inhaled that .. the familiar "I can't" stuff. One night I coughed red blood into the sink (not just foam) and I looked at my baby daughter in her crib with butt up and my older daughter in her bed and I thought "you damned fool, you will not live to see them grow up." Then I thought "OK, I have not had a cigarette since midnight and IF I can go three hours, I can can go three more hours." At 6 AM I had 6 hours in the bank and so I said "If I have already done 6 hours then I can not smoke for 6 more." The I had 12 hours in the bank. So I said "If I have already done 18 hours, I can do it again!" That's 24 hours. I called this game "double or nothing." I recall some stomach cramps and other withdrawal symptoms .. but nothing worse than would be cause by too much bean soup or pea soup. In about 5 days I knew hat I could NEVER smoke again and so I was through with cigarettes. I knew NEVER to have even one puff again because I'd be hooked all over. I never have. I'd be dead today if I had gone back to smoking. I am alive -- thanks to stents and thanks to having quit cigarettes.