Real-life medicine and the passing of Tim Russert
It’s really hard to give up the belief that if we do everything right — eat healthy, exercise, undergo diligent screening, and get all of our numbers lined up in ideal ranges — that we can prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes and forestall premature death.
This weekend, we saw how vehemently both the public and medical interests defend these beliefs; and are even quick to blame tragic victims for having done something amiss, been fat, or failed to properly manage their risk factors somehow; before they can bring themselves to see the evidence.
No one but a respected and intrepid board certified cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist (who’s also not trying to sell us something) could have made such a perfect and poignant comment about Tim Russert’s sad death and help us see the truth about what is really going on.
In an invaluable article, Dr. Westby G. Fisher, M.D., FACC, wrote:
It’s hard for me not to sit amazed at the job medicine has done convincing people we can control heart attacks. One only needs to review the many news stories regarding new journalist Tim Russert's untimely death to see the public fallout of our efforts to "educate" the populace about "screening tests" used to "prevent" the likelihood of having a heart attack. You see, with Mr. Russert's death, those tests have suffered a huge public relations nightmare.
Cholesterol screening and statins: dead in the water.
CT scanning for detection of plague to prevent heart attack: harpooned.
Stress testing to assure you're protected against the Big One: pulverized.
Not one damn thing predicted (or prevented) Mr. Russert's death.
Oh sure, he added, there are plenty of people jumping to promote the next great lifestyle modification, special test or life-saving piece of equipment that promises to reduce mortality. But the reality of what will predict a heart attack, he reveals, is...
[His full post and answer is here.]