Wednesday, February 20, 2008

31-Year Old Heart Attack Victim Wants To Know If He Should Continue With Low-Carb

Reader Josh Westbrook had a heart attack on February 10, 2008

When you meet literally thousands upon thousands of people a week through a weight loss blog like I do, it's difficult to fathom that each and every one of those people is a real person with a real life going through some very real circumstances that got them to be obese and unhealthy in the first place. I receive so many e-mails from the people who read here and I'm grateful to play even a small role in your life although I've never even met you face-to-face.

One such person is a man named Josh Westbrook. Josh wrote to me a while back telling me about how livin' la vida low-carb has helped him improve his life. He's lost about 30 pounds, starting feeling better than he ever had, and was well on his way to living a healthy lifestyle for many years to come.

But then it happened on February 10, 2008--Josh had a heart attack!

As he shared at my "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Discussion" forum today, Josh is only 31 years old and weighs in at 226 pounds. It's not like he was so morbidly obese that his heart couldn't take it anymore.

"Not a perfectly fit person but not obese," he wrote.

Now his cardiologist wants Josh to cut back on the fat in his diet and he's at a crossroads about what to do. The doctor was very explicit that it wasn't his low-carb diet that caused the heart attack, but rather stress-induced. Josh acknowledges he has been under an intense amount of pressure for a while.

"And he is right," Josh admitted. "I went through the hardest year and a half of my life."

Even still, Josh says he is "very confused" about what to do with his low-carb lifestyle now. Some well-meaning, but ignorant naysayers are blaming the Atkins diet on the heart attack, but Josh knows better. And yet the doctors are giving strict orders for him to cut back on the fat completely.

According to Josh, he is eating a lower-carb diet that is more than 100 grams a day mostly from berries, whole grain bread, and low-fat staples.

"I am allowed to eat pasta but so far have refused," Josh explained. "I miss steak. I miss dark meat chicken (my favorite). I miss butter when I am cooking."

It sounded like Josh would do fairly well with the lower-carb South Beach Diet by Dr. Arthur Agatston. That plan allows for higher amounts of carbohydrates and less fat. I told Josh to ask his doctor about whether that plan would be suitable for him to follow.

But there's a nagging concern that is bugging him right now that he hasn't been able to find an answer to.

"What if because my family has a history of 'heart disease,' higher fat is actually dangerous for me?"

Josh is looking for any experiential advice from my readers and/or doctors who have been through this before. It's a scary situation for a young man like him, but one that really needs to be addressed. Share your feedback for Josh in the comments section below so he can find some direction about what to do next.

Obviously, he needs to get a handle on how he reacts to stress in his life. People just don't realize the damage they are doing to their bodies when they let all the pent-up frustrations, pressures from your job and family, and other daily stresses weigh us down and cause real damage to our health. It's why I step away from the computer, engage in elliptical workouts, spend time with my wife watching television, sleep when I'm tired, and take vacations like I'm gonna do next week. We've got to unwind and recharge our batteries so that our health remains intact.

I'm so happy that Josh is still with us today. Hearing his story reminded me of my brother Kevin who had three heart attacks in one week back in 1999 that nearly killed him. He was only 32 years old and his was induced by both stress and his weight. By the grace of God he is still with us today, but has to take a big handful of pills every single day for the rest of his life. My prayer is that Josh avoids this fate in his own life.

So how about it everyone? Do you have any experience with how to eat healthy following a heart attack? Is a high-fat, low-carb diet like Atkins (which was created by a cardiologist by the way!) conducive for someone who has been through a traumatic cardiovascular event like this? Josh has an appointment for rehabilitation on March 10, 2008 where he will ostensibly be given his low-fat dietary instructions.

What say YOU?

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Blogger BamaGal said...

I think he needs to be referred to Dr Davis's blog.

Granted Dr Davis is revising his stand on the dietary fat issue. But he whole heartedly supports low carb for his cardiac patients.

The first thing Dr Davis would tell him is give up the bread and NO pasta for sure.

2/20/2008 10:22 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS Diane! Dr. William Davis is an outstanding resource, so his Heart Scan blog is a great place to start. THANK YOU again!!!

2/20/2008 10:32 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I haven't been through this experience, but my suggestion is that Mr. Westbrook ask his doctor to explain WHY he should cut back on fat, and demand a detailed answer as to how dietary fat would exacerbate his condition, right down to the cellular and molecular level. I personally do not believe the usual epidemiological/observational evidence constitutes sufficient evidence for treatment recommendations; but everybody needs to use their own judgment.

For instance, it is known that insulin is mitogenic, that is, it promotes cell division. This effect is particularly observed in the endothelium of blood vessels. If you drip insulin into an artery of a dog, within months that artery will develop significant atherosclerosis. So there is some basis for believing that increasing insulin via dietary carbohydrate could have a negative effect on a heart patient. Is this outweighed by the risk from dietary fat? And can the mechanism by which dietary fat contributes to arterial blockage be explained at the same level of cellular/biochemical detail? The doctor should be able to answer these questions, or at least provide some information.

On a related note, I did a mental exercise trying to "connect the dots" for heart disease. You can read about it here. This is NOT definitive proof of anything, but it should suggest some questions for the doctor. Amongst them, it is known that cranking your insulin will result in a compensatory response from the sympathetic endocrine system, which is essentially the stress response. If this is the case, the doctor needs to explain why the stress response due to insulin elevation from dietary carbohydrates is somehow different than the stress response from psychosocial influences, which is hypothesized to have caused Mr. Westbrook's problem in the first place.

I have no doubt that Mr. Westbrook's doctor is well-intentioned, but unless said doctor actually has detailed information supporting his/her treatment recommendations, Mr. Westbrook should consider what weight to place on those recommendations.

2/20/2008 11:02 PM  
Blogger Tom Bunnell (TB)--TB said...

It's Russian Roulette that we are playing here, everyone of us. We have our beliefs and we hope that we are right but there are no absolutes in any of this. -- These are uncharted waters. We are plowing new ground and hoping that what we find underneath is healthy and life supporting and not clay. -- I for one believe that we are in six feet of black dirt topsoil like the Red river Valley and other places. This is hell of a spot this guy is in, we know that! I'm going to say to put the diet on the back burner for just a little bit and focus on the stress factor. Then immediately go on a lighter but not light, eating pattern like you were on BEFORE you started Atkins. Lets try to ease past the shock and gently follow your doctors orders. There's plenty of time to look at low carb later on. A gentle consistent recovery without any stresses would be my goal. You are not morbidly obese and these diets that most of us are on are 'high powered' diets that people with health problems could well hurt and damage themselves on. Carbohydrate addiction replaced by 'fat addiction' could well 'kill' some of us. It's just a fact. Moderation in all things across the board when in times of trouble might be the only solution. Breaking habits and addictions can come later. There might not be anything that you can do that is 'right'. -- We'll hope there is.

2/21/2008 12:11 AM  
Blogger Missbossy said...

Josh definitely should find a doctor with views that are more in line with his own thinking for peace of mind. It's hard enough to face health issues without the added burden that your doctor implies you are making life-threatening choices.

You just can't go it alone and giving in to advice you feel is wrong is equally damaging.

It's not like Josh is proposing a diet which is so insane he needs the medical establishment to shake some good sense into him. He is making sensible choices and needs the support to keep making them.

2/21/2008 1:42 AM  
Blogger JD said...

I second the suggestion that he get involved with Dr. Davis' Track Your Plaque program. Dr. Davis is cutting edge. Josh needs to do a lot of research IMO so that he is comfortable with finding the right doctor and being able to ask his doctor the right questions. No one can do this for him.

I suggest he also read 'Life without Bread' by Dr. Lutz. Dr. Lutz has 40 years of experience with low carbing and he warns of cutting carbs below 70 a day due to clotting issues in going too low for some people. I am not saying this was Josh's issue, just pointing it out so he can make his own evaluation.

2/21/2008 10:50 AM  
Blogger Josh W said...

Thank you everyone! It has been a very scary time for our family. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers.
I am going to Dr Davis' blog RIGHT NOW!
If anyone would like to keep tabs on how this turns out, I will be journaling on the LLVLC forums.

2/21/2008 11:38 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

"Life Without Bread" is a good book, but I remember being struck that the aforementioned "clotting issues" didn't seem to have any solid physical basis. Am I remembering incorrectly? And has there been any subsequent research to illuminate this issue?

2/21/2008 1:14 PM  
Blogger JD said...

Page 202-203 of 'Life w/o Bread' talks about blood clots and low carb. I only mentioned Dr. Lutz as he says "every sudden change in the body raises the blood-clotting tendency". Lutz's main concern as I read it is the transition to low carb and this potential blood clotting possibility. The doctor treated thousand of patients over decades so I take him at his word. In Josh's case since he had a heart attack so young, I just wonder if it is not some genetic issue.

2/21/2008 4:32 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

As a very young man what you are hoping for, more than anything else, is reassurance. Your doctor’s position, at the moment, is to give you hope. Advising any change in your lifestyle; reducing your fat intake in this case, he believes will give you that hope.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it was probably the lack of healthy fat in your former lifestyle, a high carb diet, which got you into this trouble in the first place! I will use Jimmy Moore as an example. Lets say that Jimmy died today (God forbid) and a crowd gathered around his coffin. What do think would be the first words out of their mouths? That’s easy! The entire crowd would say, all at once, including his doctor, “I warned Jimmy about that damn Atkins diet”. EVEN IF HE GOT RUN OVER BY A TRUCK!

Not a single person in the crowd would ever mention the fact that Dr. Robert C. Atkins played a major part in helping Jimmy lose two hundred pounds and gave him a “whole new life”!

We should all ask ourselves this question: “How many years could Jimmy Moore expect to look forward to at four hundred and twelve pounds?” How many people do you know who have lived to sixty-five and weighed in at four hundred plus? Not many!

As a sixty-five year old man, myself, on Atkins for nine years now, the only question I ever ask myself is this: “How much damage have I already done to my body while on a high carb diet?” I would never doubt Atkins!

Your doctor should not be trying to “cast doubt” on your way of eating. I have read just about everything on dieting and nothing comes close to Atkins for healthy living! Dr. Atkins died from slipping on the ice not from eating bacon and eggs every morning. But you never hear doctors warning you against exercise.

If you were to live to be one hundred and fifty years old I’m sure that somebody would look into your coffin, when you died, and say: “THAT DAMN ATKINS DIET, I WARNED HIM”.

Pray! God listens!

Michael Scott

2/21/2008 7:41 PM  
Blogger Loretta said...

Well, I don't have any medical advice, just well wishes and prayers.
Two of my brothers had heart attacks in their 30's. One survived, one didn't. They had both been overweight children that lost weight as adults and were leading very healthy, active lives except for one area~STRESS. Both had terrible tempers, held in a lot of emotions, harbored many resentments. Stress can kill you folks! I don't know you, Josh but thank God you are still here :)

2/23/2008 11:54 AM  
Blogger SusanJ said...

Read Gary Taubes book! He explains in great detail why low fat is a myth but why doctors believe it.

2/23/2008 11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to add that some people don't understand that some of us out there have no control over our stress. At a year old I suffered two blows to my left front & temperal lobes. Which affects how my body handles stress unlike a normal person. Adrenaline rushes through my veins all throughout the day. I had my first heart attack at 32. I ate a healthy diet. I excercised, and did everything right. My body just could not handle the amount of overload it was repeatedly being force fed.
My heart attack symptoms: Awoke to a horrendous pain in my jaw followed by a pain that radiated from my neck into my back. Women's symptoms are often different than that of mens.

1/24/2009 8:01 PM  

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