Alex Morgan, DDS* is one of those health nuts. He’s a runner, doesn’t eat much meat, and even practices yoga. His cholesterol is good, his PSA is fine, and his family and team at the office love him. Then on a recent Friday afternoon, Dr. Morgan had a heart attack. He died on the way to the hospital. He was just 53.
Jennifer Spencer, RDH* is a dental hygienist. She loves her career and many of the patients at the dental office specifically ask for “Jenny.” Jennifer is a mom of 3 and a devoted wife to her husband, Robert. She is active in community fund raising efforts and in her church, too. She always knew she had “a little high blood pressure” but didn’t really think it was of much concern. After all, she ate well, exercised, and didn’t have much stress in her life. Then one day, Jennifer had a stroke. She can no longer practice her career.
Tim Russert of NBC’s “Meet The Press” was on a statin. His cholesterol numbers were where they needed to be. His blood pressure was under control. He had the best medical care available. He passed a stress test. And then eight weeks later at work, he died. He was just 58.
How can this happen?
Surprisingly, as a dental professional, your number one health threat is a heart attack or stroke. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. In fact, more women now die from cardiovascular disease than men. “Atherosclerosis” is more likely to be on your death certificate than any other cause of death.
And it no longer just happens to old people.
The number one most common first symptom that you have cardiovascular disease is that you die. That’s the most common first symptom. You don’t want to wait that long.
If you think you’ve got this cholesterol/heart attack issue all figured out…you don’t. If you think your physician or cardiologist is up to date…they probably aren’t. They are assuredly good, well-meaning professionals, but most of them are practicing cardiovascular medicine that does not reflect what research has recently discovered about preventing the biggest threat to your life.
What’s Going On?
The medical community is getting better all the time at keeping victims alive after they’ve had a heart attack or stroke. But where most physicians really fall short is in preventing a cardiovascular event from happening in the first place. Every 25 seconds an American will have a heart attack. Every 40 seconds someone in the US has a stroke. All the cholesterol medications and all the advice about healthy eating, exercise, and oral health apparently isn’t enough.
Most everyone knows stories of people who did everything right, followed the rules, were healthy, and still died from an unexpected heart attack. The normal response to a tragedy like that is “Well, you just never know, you never can tell.” WRONG! We now absolutely can tell. A heart attack or stroke is not a surprise if you know what to look for. You can see it coming. And if you know what to look for you can PREVENT IT! And THAT is the point!
A New Approach
Most cardiologists today look at whether there’s a problem with the flow of blood in your arteries. They check to see if the lumen, the place where your blood flows inside the artery, is open by doing traditional tests like stress testing, angiography, and other measurements. They want to know if there’s a blockage in your circulation.
But we now understand that most heart attacks are caused by non-obstructing plaque; plaque that’s in the artery wall itself. You can have a heart attack or stroke with basically clean arteries. THAT is a major paradigm shift in our understanding of the biggest health threat to Americans.
The disease and plaque starts FIRST in the artery wall. It doesn’t interfere with blood flow until the disease is often quite advanced. But if that artery wall plaque happens to rupture for some reason, and spill it’s contents into the lumen, the body will try to fix that with a blood clot. If the clot is too big or dislodges and moves downstream, a heart attack or stroke can result. Your artery can be completely open just before you have a heart attack!
For your TRUE, ACTUAL, PERSONAL risk assessment, the extent, location, and severity of the disease in the artery WALL has to be determined. Fortunately, with the help of new technology we can see if you have diseased arteries long BEFORE any problem shows up with traditional tests.
In my full-day presentation to dental professionals “The Heart of Dentistry” I show how you can completely avoid ever having a heart attack or stroke. Ever. Really. That’s amazingly good news.
David L. Meinz, MS, RDN, FAND, CSP (www.TheHeartOfDentistry.us) is a professional speaker and author and has presented to over 300 dental groups in his career. His focus in on total patient health. David’s formal education includes a Master’s Degree (MS) in Human Nutrition from the University of Missouri, and status as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Fellow in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (FAND). He is also a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) in the National Speaker’s Association. He is the author of the book “Wealthy, Healthy, and Wise: How Dental Professionals Can Make Sure Their Health Lasts As Long As Their Money Does.