The Nation's Health + power

Heart disease prevention: My life is easy

In the old days (the 1980s and 1990s), practicing cardiology was very physically and emotionally demanding. Since procedures dominated the practice and preventive strategies were limited, heart attacks were painfully common. It wasn't unusual to have to go to the hospital for a patient having a heart attack at 3 am several times a week.

Those were the old days. Nowadays, my life is easy. Heart attacks, for the most part, are a thing of the past in the group of people who follow the Track Your Plaque principles. I can't remember the last time I had a coronary emergency for someone following the program.

But I am reminded of what life used to be like for me when I occasionally have to live up to my hospital responsibilities and/or cover the practices of my colleagues. (Though I voice my views on prevention to my colleagues, the most I get is a odd look. When a colleague recently covered my practice for a weekend while I visited family out of town, he commented to me how quiet my practice was. I responded, "That's because my patients are essentially cured." "Oh, sure they are." He laughed. No registration that he had witnessed something that was genuine and different from his experience of day-to-day catastrophe among his own patients. None.)

I recently had to provide coverage for a colleague for a week while he took his family to Florida. During the 7 days, his patients experienced 4 heart attacks. That is, 4 heart attacks among patients under the care of a cardiologist.

If you want some proof of the power of prevention, watch your results and compare them to the "control" group of people around you: neighbors, colleagues, etc. Unfortunately, the word on prevention, particularly one as powerful as Track Your Plaque, is simply not as widespread as it should be. Instead, it's drowned out in the relentless flood of hospital marketing for glitzy hospital heart programs, the "ask your doctor about" ads for drugs like Plavix, which is little better than spit in preventing heart attacks (except in stented patients), and the media's fascinating with high-tech laser, transplant, robotic surgery, etc.

Prevention? That's not news. But it sure can make the slow but sure difference between life and death, having a heart attack or never having a heart attack.

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