Tim Russert, the moderator of “Meet the Press” on NBC News, died of a heart attack this month at 58. What is unsettling about this news is that he was reported to have been following doctor’s advce on drugs, diet and exercise, but he died of a heart attack anyway.
Russert’s case was a plaque rupture – a fatty, pimple-like lesion in a coronary artery burst, and a blood clot formed that closed the vessel and cut off circulation to part of the heart muscle. According to an article written by Denise Grady of the New York Times, “Mr. Russert’s fate underlines some painful truths. A doctor’s care is not a protective bubble, and cardiology is not the exact science that many people wish it to be. A person’s risk of a heart attack can only be estimated, and although drugs, diet and exercise may lower that risk, they cannot eliminate it entirely.”
Although Russert took blood pressureand cholesterolpills and aspirin, rode an exercise bike, did not smoke, had yearly stress tests and other exams, he was quite overweight with a waist more than 40 inches.
In the United States, one person dies every 33 seconds from cardiovascular diseases (CVD), the No. 1 killer in America and in many well-developed countries around the world. In the Philippines, the death toll from CVD is about one every 7 minutes, and one out of ten Filipinos 15 years and older has hypertension (high blood pressure). Hypertension is common among heart patients and a most frequent cause of stroke. About 80 to 85 percent of all primary hypertension are mild enough to be effectively controlled by modification in lifestyle alone without drugs.
Rupert’s case may be puzzling cardiologists right now, but still nothing beats prevention to maintain a healthy heart. Here are some tips:
• Quit smoking;
• Drink alcohol moderately;
• Limit or avoid high-fat, high-cholesterol foods, like egg yolk, pork, beef and other red meats, including processed foods in general;
• Eat a lot of green leafy vegetables, fish, high-fiber nuts and grains;
• Maintain a normal body weight for height and age by controlling calorie intake;
• Exercise daily at least 30 minutes, five times a week;
• Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day;
• Adopt a daily stress reduction and relaxation routine;
• Avoid exposure to toxic chemical vapors, even from common household sprays, etc., and protection from sun (UV ray) exposure as much as possible; and
• Have a regular medical check-up, especially for those who are over the age of 40, and for younger ones who have pre-existing illness.