Wednesday, 07 May, 2003

Heart Trouble

My brother Jay is 43—18 months older than I am.  A couple of weeks ago he began having unusual pains in his left arm and shoulder, shortness of breath, and general lack of energy.  After visiting a number of doctors, he finally ended up with cardiologist who administered an EKG and a stress test, and then sent him to the hospital for an angiogram.  That was last week.  Today he visited the heart surgeon and is scheduled for surgery next Thursday.  The angiogram revealed several severe blockages and a heart murmur that's the result of a major heart attack that he didn't even know he had suffered.  Next week's surgery will bypass the blocked arteries and either repair or replace the damaged valve.

My brother isn't the picture of health but then, he's not all that bad, either.  One hardly expected him to develop heart trouble at such an early age.  The surgeon said that his symptoms would be consistent with his lifestyle if he was 70 years old.  Advanced arteriosclerosis at the young age of 43 is due mostly to genetics.  A very large percentage of people who die from heart disease have no warning—they just die, leaving everybody wondering how things could have gotten so bad without their knowing about it.  Believe me, I know.  My dad died from undiagnosed and untreated heart disease at the young age of 57.

If your family has any history of heart disease, I strongly suggest that you visit your doctor and arrange a full examination.  You can bet that I have.  Get yourself checked out, and then follow your doctor's recommendations.  As my friend Jeff Duntemann pointed out, you are not a prisoner of your genetics.  Moderate exercise, a reasonable diet, limited stress, and avoiding smoking will go a long way to prevent heart trouble even if you do have a genetic disposition.