Life Extension Magazine November 2004
What the News Media Did Not Reveal About Bill Clinton's Heart Problem
By William Faloon
LE Magazine November 2004
|What the News Media Did Not Reveal About Bill Clinton's Heart Problem|
When a celebrity develops a serious illness, the news media reports not only on the famous person, but also on the disease itself. The media conducts interviews with physicians and discusses what may have caused the celebrity’s ailment.
We have long argued that medical ignorance is the leading cause of death in the US. We thus believe that the news media provides a partial public service by revealing intimate details about a celebrity’s disorder, and information about what average people can do to reduce their risk of contracting the same disease.
In early September, former President Bill Clinton underwent quadruple coronary artery bypass surgery. This operation was performed after Clinton went to his doctor complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath. An angiogram revealed significant (90%) atherosclerotic occlusion in the major arteries feeding his heart. Immediate bypass surgery was prescribed to prevent the 58-year-old former president from suffering a major heart attack.
The news media did a good job of educating the public about coronary artery disease, how it is diagnosed, and what happens during bypass surgery. There was also a lot of reporting on what may have caused the apparently robust former president to develop such a severe case of coronary artery occlusion.
Bill Clinton’s penchant for eating artery-clogging fast food was noted, along with his mild hypertension. If these news media reports motivate some Americans to alter their food choices and maintain optimal blood pressure levels, then Clinton’s ordeal will have provided some benefit to the public.
Regrettably, the news media spent so much time focusing on Clinton’s cholesterol level that people could have been misled into believing that keeping cholesterol low is all it takes prevent coronary artery occlusion. While cholesterol (especially the more dangerous low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) facilitates arterial blockage, it represents only part of the reason why heart attacks continue to strike Americans at epidemic levels.
Misconceptions About Atherosclerosis
Most doctors think of an ath-erosclerotic lesion as a “clog” consisting of fat, cholesterol, and platelets that have accumulated on an inner arterial wall. As a result, they tell their patients to eat less fat, take a statin drug (if cholesterol levels are high), and use a baby aspirin to prevent arterial platelet aggregation. The problem with these approaches is that while they may postpone a heart attack or stroke, they fail to correct the underlying pathologies that cause atherosclerotic lesions to form and progress.
If people are to live long lives free of the ravages of atherosclerosis, these lethal misconceptions must be cleared up. Otherwise, there will be an epidemic of aging people receiving coronary stents, undergoing bypass surgeries, and dropping dead from sudden heart attacks.
In reporting on Bill Clinton’s coronary bypass surgery, the news media stated that over 300,000 of these “routine” procedures are performed every year. Considering the miserable adverse consequences these operations can inflict, coronary bypass surgery should be considered only as a last resort rather than as a “routine” procedure.
Why Arteries Clog as We Age
For the past 35 years, the standard treatment for coronary ath-erosclerosis has been to bypass the blocked arteries. Recuperation from this procedure can take months, and some patients are afflicted with lifetime impairments such as chronic inflammation, memory loss, and depression.5-15
A review of the scientific literature reveals that atherosclerosis is associated with high blood levels of homocysteine,16-24 fibrinogen,25-28 C-reactive protein,29-36 glucose,37,38 cholesterol,39-43 insulin,44-47 iron,48-51 LDL,39-43 and triglycerides,52-54 along with low levels of HDL55-57 and testosterone.45,58-64 Optimizing blood levels of these substances can dramatically reduce heart attack and stroke risk.
Despite thousands of studies validating that atherosclerosis is a multifactorial process, today’s doctors often prescribe a statin drug as the sole therapy to prevent and treat coronary atherosclerosis. Mainstream cardiologists fail to appreciate that coronary atherosclerosis is a sign of systemic arterial dysfunction requiring aggressive therapy to correct it. Conventional medicine’s failure became self-evident when the news media interviewed cardiologists about Bill Clinton’s diseased arteries. The doctors focused on his elevated cholesterol as the cause of his problem.
Life Extension members, on the other hand, have grown inpatient with doctors who fail to translate research findings into improved therapies. More than ever before, health-conscious people are taking responsibility for the health of their arteries by correcting as many of the known risk factors as possible.
Anatomy of the Artery
The outer layer of the artery comprises mostly connective tissue and provides structural containment for the two layers beneath. The middle area comprises elastic smooth muscle that provides the contractile strength to make possible the artery’s expansion and contraction with each heartbeat. The inner layer, known as the endothelium, comprises a thin area of endothelial cells whose integrity is crucial if atherosclerosis is to be prevented.
Poor health habits and normal aging result in endothelial dysfunction, a process in which the endothelium boundary is broken, arterial flexibility is diminished, abnormal platelet aggregation occurs, and atherosclerotic lesions form in response to arterial wall (endothelium) injuries.
Folic acid,65-71 vitamin C,72-76 fish oil,77-79 and lipoic acid80-84 are just a few of the nutrients that help maintain healthy endothelial function. It is no coincidence that these same nutrients have been shown to reduce cardiovascular incidence in both animals and people.85-94 Agents that suppress chronic inflammation also help protect the endothelium.95-133