As a survivor of a heart attack and someone who has spent considerable time learning about coronary heart disease and its treatment I am bewildered by Russet’s death by sudden cardiac arrest. His autopsy confirmed that artery plaque had caused an artery to burst.
Here is what I have kept listening for on all the well deserved media coverage of this remarkable man: Given that his physician has said publicly that Russet suffered from coronary heart disease and was being treated for it, did he ever receive an angiogram by way of cardiac catheterization?
This is the best way for cardiologists to directly see whether there are plaque buildup problems in heart arteries. The procedure is very simple. Depending on what they see either you go home the same day, or the decision is made to clean the arteries out (angioplasty) and likely use stents to keep them open, or to decide that bypass surgery is needed. Use of pacemakers, possibly with a defibrillator, may also be used in conjunction with the stent approach.
Stress tests simply do not provide the same kind of direct information about what is going on inside the heart, so the fact that Russet has passed a stress test recently does not by itself mean all that much.
For many years before my heart attack I, like millions of others, had been taking prescription medicine for cholesterol control, aspirin and blood pressure medication, and I would not be surprised to learn that Russet also was on such a regime. And like Russet I also had emphasized regular physical exercise. But like Russet I too had not lost weight and being overweight remains a big problem even when taking medications. Now, of course, I have lost considerable weight; nothing like a heart attack to provide the most effective motivation to lose weight.
Considering the incredible public attention to Tim Russet’s death I hope that there is more serious inquiry into exactly how he was being treated for his coronary heart disease and, in particular, whether he had been given an angiogram. For the life of me, I do not understand why more of us are not told to get angiograms as a cost-effective, life-saving precautionary diagnostic measure.