Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A basic primer on heart Rx

Tuesday is Health Day in the Washington Post, and the work season on Sept. 7 opened with a primer on heart health, “Consumer Report Insights: The Do’s and Don’ts of caring for your heart” here.

For women especially, but sometimes for men too, the most dangerous warning signs are the vague ones: tightness (in the neck or jaw as much as the chest), and phantom pains in the shoulder or arm that should have been in the chest. Sharper pains, ironically, often are not heart –related (perhaps bowel or gall bladder).

The article gives the medical term for “balloon angioplasty”, that is, “percutaneous coronary intervention, usually with a stent”.

Male patients might not like the continuous and perhaps humiliating attention for heart disease, for example the shaving for holter monitors.

Remember, David Letterman went to the doctor one morning in January 2000, and that afternoon was wheeled into the OR for emergency coronary bypass surgery (and a quintuple, at that, although the number of bypassed coronary arteries bears little relation to the severity of disease). (With bypass surgery, they stop your heart, put you on a machine, and bring you back to life, Frankenstein style; they play God.) Letterman joined the zipper club, and not by choice. Esquire (“The Men’s Magazine) made a lot of it, in cartoon. He probably felt he had become a victim of a “bugcrush”. I would feel disfigured. So I used to tell coworkers, “never go to the doctor”. You might not come back to work. You might not go home.

And Dick Cheney, with his bypass before age 40,and his continuous problems since, now has a pump device that precludes even having a pulse. It’s scary how much doctors think they can do. “I do it because I can.” Libertarians ask, what happened to “personal responsibility” and health care costs.

Pictures: Hiking on Spruce Knob in W Va (4860 feet, 170 miles from Washington DC), ought to be heart healthy.

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