The Nation's Health + [heart attack]

Heart attack: Support your local hospital: HAVE A HEART ATTACK!

I'm kidding, of course. But, in your hospital's secret agenda, that's not too far from the truth. Catastrophes lead to hospital procedures, which then yields major revenues.

Prevention, on the other hand, yields nothing for your hospital. No $8,000 to $12,000 for heart catheterization, several thousand more for a stent, $60,000-plus for a bypass, $25,000 or more for a defibrillator. In other words, prevention of heart attack and all its consequences deprive your hospital of a goldmine of revenue.

The doctors are all too often conspirators. I heard of yet another graphic example today. A man I didn't know called me out of the blue with a question. "I had a heart scan and I had a 'score' that I was told meant a moderate quantity of plaque in my arteries, a score of 157. My doctor said to ignore it. But I got another scan a year later and my score was 178. So I told this to my doctor and he said, 'Let's get you into the hospital. We'll set up a catheterization and then you'll get bypassed.' Of course, I was completely thrown off balance by this. Here I was thinking that the heart scan was showing that my prevention program needed improvement. But my doctor was talking about bypass surgery. Can you help? Does this sound right?"

No, this is absolutely not right. It's another tragedy like the many I hear about every day. Heart scans are, in fact, wonderfully helpful tools for prevention. This man was right: he felt great and the heart scan simply uncovered hidden plaque that should have triggered a conversation on how to prevent it from getting worse. But the doctor took it as a license to hustle the patient into the hospital. Ka-ching!

This sort of blatant money-generating behavior is far from rare. Don't become another victim of the cardiovascular money-making machine. Be alert, be skeptical, and question why. Of course, there are plenty of times when major heart procedures are necessary. But always insist on knowing the rationale behind such decisions, whether it's you or a loved one.