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Take heart - and save it, too!

American cardiologists last year performed more than 300,000 angioplasties, in which a tiny balloon is threaded into a blocked coronary artery and then expanded to open up the vessel. As blood surges through the unblocked artery, the results are immediate and often dramatic. So why should we observe a near life-time of careful attention to diet when a relatively simple procedure can undo whenever damage may have been done?

For one thing, about 30-40 percent of all angioplasties block up again within six months or so, usually requiring another procedure. For another, the cost is very high; the typical cardiologist charges $20,000 or more for one procedure. Last year, the total cost to unplug American arteries with angioplasty was more than $8 billion. Two Swiss cardiologists, Drs. Pascal Nicod and Urs Scherrer, say this may be one reason cardiologists like to do angioplasty. Another reason, they suggest, is that it's fun! "Introducing a wire into a tortuous coronary artery while planning the turns to make on a fluoroscopic screen generates challenge and excitement similar to those of the latest video game," they write.

If an artery is so thoroughly clogged that angioplasty won't work, what could be better than to remove the clogged segment and replace it with a healthy portion of leg vein? Although the results certainly last a lot longer than those of angioplasty, unfortunately, the results of bypass surgery are not all they're cracked up to be. In an 11-year Veterans Administration study of 650 heart disease patients in VA hospitals, half were randomly given bypass surgery, while the other half were simply treated with drugs. Angina relief proved to be about the same in both groups.

More shocking was the revelation that the bypass patients didn't live any longer, on average, than those treated only with drugs. "Only in a select few with serioud main coronary artery or multiple-vessel disease does the bypass prevent death," says Dr. John C. LaRosa, dean fo research at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Certainly it's a nuisance to read food labels, to figure how much fat we're consuming relative to total caloric intake, to deprive ourselves of some much-loved food, etc. Nevertheless, it works--and the benefits not only extend our lives but improve the quality as well. So take heart--and save that old ticker for life's fun times.
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Title Annotation:preventing heart disease with healthy diet
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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