Dr. Reese’s Bits and Pieces
August 2015 Newsletter
What do you mean the kids go back to school in a few weeks! Where did the summer go? It is certainly a season that is highly anticipated and then seems to disappear in a blink. I’m hoping for one of those great long warm fall season to keep us out of winter until December.
Another thing that happens in a blink is a heart attack. There are many different statistics floating out there but the one I read the most is that for 50% of the people who have a heart attack, the first symptom is death. These sudden deaths happen in people of all ages, many with normal weight, cholesterol, who eat better than most Americans and exercise.
Silently, one or more of their coronary arteries are becoming blocked with plaque and then eventually a clot forms and releases into the artery to cause a total blockage. This shuts down the supply of blood to the heart muscle and it starts to die. This makes the heart pump erratically and then eventually stop.
For those of you on Netfix, there is a documentary playing called Widow Maker. It talks about this problem and how political medicine suppressed a simple early diagnostic test that was found to be highly accurate and inexpensive. A heart scan or a high speed CT scan of the heart can visualize calcium formation in the coronary arteries and come up with a calcium score to predict the likelihood of you having a heart attack. The higher your calcium score, the greater plaque build-up and the greater chance for a future heart attack.
Flip a Coin
If you are relying on EKG’s, stress tests and cholesterol levels to determine your heart health, you have a 50/50 chance of being right. Former President Clinton had a heart scan early on in office that said he was developing a plaque problem. His doctors ignored it and went on the basis of normal EKG’s, normalized body weight and cholesterol plus great stress test results. Clinton bragged about having 5 stellar stress tests in a row and then suddenly had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery to open the blood flow back to his heart. That build-up didn’t happen overnight and was totally missed by conventional testing.
Out of this World
NASA had a run in with an astronaut having a cardiac incident just after leaving the moon. He made it back to earth safely but had a major heart attack less than a year later. We all know what kind of rigorous training they go through before being shot into space. But all of the doctors running the NASA medical program missed it. They also had a few other problems with Mission Control staff during a mission and now have implemented a heart scan protocol for all their people. According to the movie, to be accepted into the astronaut program, you have to have a zero calcium score. Those already in the program can have a low score.
What’s all the Fuss Over?
When it was first developed, the Heart Scan was promoted to cardiologists throughout the country. Because the American Heart Association wouldn’t support it, few docs were interested. So the few docs who had machines went directly to the public and started promoting heart scans. This infuriated the ruling class of medicine and they called them a cult and did everything to discredit them. In 2004, the Journal of Circulation was going to publish that the American Heart Association had finally decided it may have some value in predicting future heart attacks. The new editor saw that the maker of the machine was interviewed in the Wall Street Journal and mentioned that this was going to occur. The editor also received a solicitation in the mail to buy a machine since he was a cardiologist. Both of these things made him mad so he pulled the statement from his publication. In 2013 it was finally made an accepted practice by the American Heart Association. Over 4.5 million people died of cardiac sudden death from the early 1990’s to 2013 that may have been helped with early intervention of diet, nutrition or even medication.
In 2007, the Courage Study was published after following 2000 people who had stents to open up their blocked arteries. They found the stents didn’t stop future heart attacks or extend their life. They found that statins and exercise had a better outcome. The normal procedure is that only if you survive a heart attack or are about to have one, will they put in a stent or 5. Once you have a stent, you can’t have bypass surgery. Stent placement runs about $30-50,000 per patient and is a giant money maker for doctors, hospitals, the inventor and the Burger Billionaire who financed bring it to market.
A Mayo clinic study found that the heart scan accurately predicted who needed an angiogram and who didn’t so they could avoid needless angiograms. They declined to buy a machine since angiograms account for 25% of their revenue and they’d be losing half of that. Kaiser researchers did several studies and found it accurately predicted who would have a heart attack. They weren’t interested because (and this was echoed by all the big insurance companies) the average client is only with them 5 years. Any preventative test or treatment they paid for would only benefit their competition in cost savings so they weren’t interested. It’s all about the Benjamins!
How Do You Score?
My grandfather, who I look just like, had his first heart attack at 48 and his last one at 63. He died in 1968 long before heart scans were invented in the early 90’s. It might have saved his life but I doubt it since there was a very low success rate at treating heart disease in the 60’s. Heart disease today still kills more people a year then all of the cancers combined. With my genetic history, I got my first scan several years ago and had a score of 106. The scores are ranked as follows:
Over 1000-“oh my God call an ambulance!”
Since then I’ve worked to get my score under 100 by taking niacin, fish oils, vitamin D multi-vits, exercise, a low carb diet that includes eating lots of good fat and avoiding gluten and dairy. It is not about avoiding cholesterol or saturated fat. Avoid the trans-fats, your sensitive foods, dehydration and anything that increases inflammation in the body to decrease your chance of putting plaque in your arteries. A heart scan costs about $99-$399 depending on where you get it done. Front Range Preventative imaging in Boulder does them. You can also check out http://www.southdenver.com/cardiac-services/diagnostic-testing/calcium-heart-score-wellness for a center in Littleton that charges $99. Once you get your score, there are things I can do to help you work on lowering it and reduce your risk of having a coronary in the future.
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