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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tim Russert

Tim Russert's death at age 58 has drawn a lot of attention to coronary artery disease, particularly because of his young age.

There has been so much speculation about what occurred. What we do know is that he had coronary artery disease, he was overweight, and he was a diabetic. He had "passed" (whatever that means) a stress test recently.

In all of the scare over coronary disease and sudden cardiac death, there is one thing to keep in mind: the vast majority of them do not occur out of thin air. Most people who have cardiac events had at least one risk factor, whether that be diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, a history of smoking, or a strong family history of coronary disease. I can think of only very few cases where there was no significant traditional cardiac risk factor.

The bottom line remains the same: Know and manage your risk factors. If you do not know your blood pressure or have not had your blood drawn recently to determine your cholesterol and electrolytes, then it's time to see a doctor for a check-up. And if you do have risk factors, they need to be managed with appropriate medications, diet, and exercise.

But, most important here is how we take care of our bodies. By eating well and exercising, the risk of hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia is significantly reduced; and as a result the risk of coronary artery disease is far less.


Anonymous said...

I was pretty freaked out by Russert's death, too. His heart disease was being monitored, his lipid profile was "optimal," the stress test showed no cause for concern . . . then he suddenly just keels over, dead, at 58. WTF?

Sometimes I think genetics matter more than anything else. I have a strong family history of vascular disease and seem fated to go the same way as my parents did.

I've made a lot of heatlhy changes in my life, with no apparent effect on my risk of vascular disease. A year ago, when I was obese & sedentary, my BP was "prehypertensive" -- 120/74. Today, 40 lbs lighter, exercising regularly, my BP is STILL "prehypertensive" -- 120/74.

I've tried cutting excess sodium & increasing potassium-rich foods, and my BP is STILL 120/74.

(A few years ago, when my lifestyle was much less healthy than it is now, my BP was consistently 106/60.)

I don't know. I am starting to think you can manage your diet & exercise all you want, but still be genetically doomed. -Victoria

Christie said...

The whole Tim Russert thing shocked the heck out of me last week. But your post has me thinking. A few years ago, an ex co-worker died of a heart attack. It was his 2nd heart attack and he was only 32. I think he was 29 when he had his first heart attack. People really need to wake up and start paying attention to their health and what they're putting in their bodies. If someone that young can have a heart attack, anyone can. It's sad.

Vegan Run Amok said...

Like Victoria said, I think the scariest thing was that he was being treated, probably by top-notch doctors, too, and it wasn't enough.

Still, his death, and your post, and suddenly finding myself a scant year away from turning 40, has made me realize that I really need to find a primary care doc again so that I can start getting regular bloodwork done.

It's just so hard to find a good doctor here. :( My old internist was excellent, but she had to have some major surgery, and then I think her dad died, and anyway, she burned out in a major way, closed her practice and took a relatively less stressful job at a sleep clinic somewhere. The internist I waited 10 months or so to get in with after that went on maternity leave three years ago and never came back. While I was waiting in vain for her to return, I did find a gynecologist (13 or 14 months on the wait list there, if I recall correctly) but I never bothered to try to find another primary care doc after that.

Now, though, it's time. Maybe if I start now, I can get in somewhere before I do turn 40! Thanks for the prompt, Heather!