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Tim Russert may have saved a life after he lost his own. Despite having tests for heart disease and cardiac function Russert unexpectedly and tragically passed away from cardiac arrest while at work. The Russert heart story has put heart problems, treatment and prevention high on people's radar. One group who especially sat up and took notice of the heart story are people in Russert's age group. Middle age who may or may not exercise, eat healthy, avoid stress, get regular checkups,etc.

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    Michael Bicks, a 50 year old who takes good care of himself tells the story of a recent bicycle ride and how thinking about Russert's story helped insure it wouldn't be his last." Most Saturday mornings, I bicycle with a group of men, mostly in their 50s, whom I affectionately call the Cheat Death group. We are all in pretty good shape, competitive but supportive, and convinced that hard-core exercise is our ticket to postponing the inevitable. The ride a few Saturdays back was a tough one. At 6:30 a.m., the pack took off fast and immediately headed for the hills near Durham, N.H. The first few climbs felt pretty good, but by the third hill I started to feel nauseated".

    So he wound up breaking off from the pack and going home. He figured he was just exhausted or ate too much the night before."After showering, I lay down in bed and started thinking. Though I am a 50-year-old guy with a stressful job and a little too much around the middle, I had a clean bill of health. I had good cholesterol numbers and a great doctor, and recently I had passed a cardiac stress test". "That’s when Tim Russert popped into my head...That’s when the light went on. I bolted out of bed, went to the computer and Googled “How do you know you are having a heart attack?” The first Web site that popped up was a list of warning signs from the American Heart Association. As I read on, I started to sweat. “Nausea.” Check. “Shortness of breath.” Check. “Chest discomfort.” Perhaps, though it really didn’t feel like much.Ignoring the Web site’s advice to call 911 (I was too vain to have an ambulance pull up to my house), I drove to the hospital".

    You can guess the rest. Sure enough the exam at the hospital revealed he had had a heart attack. "Because at the right moment I thought of Tim Russert, I am one of the lucky ones. I get to hug my wife and my kids, understand how wonderful my friends are and realize exactly how much I love my life. It is a debt I can never repay". I saw another article about heart attacks, about predicting who will have a heart attack and steps to try and prevent a heart attack. The article drew an analogy between the famous runner Jim Fixx and Tim Russert. Both were relatively young men. The article pointed out "Just over a year ago, a team led by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the death rate from heart disease in the USA has dropped by 50% from 1980 to 2000, thanks to improvements in medical treatment and a reduction in risk factors".

    "The researchers credited those advances — including intensive cholesterol lowering (with drugs like the statins) and blood pressure control for heart attack patients and a drop in smoking rates — with saving an estimated 341,000 lives that would have been lost to heart disease if conditions in 1980 had persisted".

    As I pointed out previously in Purple Medical Blog, the Heart Association writes "The American Heart Association recommends aspirin use for patients who've had a myocardial infarction (heart attack), unstable angina, ischemic stroke (caused by blood clot) or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs or "little strokes"), if not contraindicated.(An example of a contraindication might be easy bleeding) This recommendation is based on sound evidence from clinical trials showing that aspirin helps prevent the recurrence of such events as heart attack, hospitalization for recurrent angina, second strokes, etc. (secondary prevention). Studies show aspirin also helps prevent these events from occurring in people at high risk (primary prevention)".

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