Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tim Russert's Fatal Heart Attack Was Preventable, He Followed Antiquated Advice

In this supercharged and oftentimes volatile political election year, something tragic and sudden struck this country and has everyone buzzing in Washington and across the United States. No, it wasn't some sex scandal, drug bust, or any of the other usual news that has become almost too commonplace these days. This was something much more serious and has greater implications than even the extensive coverage the mainstream media is giving to it.

Last Friday afternoon, hard-hitting political interviewer and long-time host of NBC-TV's Sunday morning news talk show "Meet the Press" Tim Russert experienced his first heart attack and it almost instantly killed him. I cannot imagine how his family is responding to this news and my sympathies and prayers go out to them during this very difficult time. Tim was in the midst of doing what he loved--preparing for his television show--when the heart attack took his life and took him away from all of us.

So, how did a 58-year old man die from a heart attack when he was doing all of the things his doctor said he should to prevent it? Should we be concerned about what doctors are telling us about how to ward off cardiovascular disease so that we don't become the next victim of what befell Tim Russert? These are the questions people are asking in the wake of this tragedy and was the subject of what one of my readers wanted to know in an e-mail I received.

Here's what she wrote:

Hi Jimmy, I have been an avid reader of your blog for a long time. I am so scared since Tim Russert died suddenly of a heart attack at only age 58 (my husband is 57 and I'm 54) that I'd really like to get some clarification on the statin drugs and cholesterol issue. Seems like Tim Russert's doctors did all the usual things and he died anyway. I trust what Dr. Jonny Bowden has to say as he has an advanced degree in nutrition and he seems to think for himself instead of just following the status quo. Can you see if he would help reassure me with this? Thanks for your assistance, and keep up the fantastic work!

While I am no Dr. Jonny Bowden, I do have some things to say about Tim Russert's death that need to be said. I can understand your concerns and I am delighted to forward your questions to Dr. Jonny Bowden. He's one of the brightest, most articulate people on nutrition in the entire world, so you are in good hands with the information he provides to you.

But if you would allow me to comment on this subject, I have some thoughts about it. Isn't it interesting that Tim Russert did everything exactly as his doctor wanted him to and yet his very first heart attack was a fatal one? I don't think that's a coincidence either and it happens every single day without a blink of an eye from anyone.

Watch this video interview with Russert's doctor to see how dejected he is about Russert's "unexpected" death despite his best treatment strategies. It's amazing to hear his doctor basically say that Tim did everything he was "supposed" to do and yet it wasn't enough to save his life. Wanna know what the scariest part of this story is?

Check out Tim Russert's lipid profile:

HDL--37 (up from the lower 20's)
Total Cholesterol--105

Did you see that? Most doctors would look at those numbers and say, "See how healthy this person is because we lowered his cholesterol." And they would pound their chest with pride at putting someone like Tim Russert on a statin drug to artificially make this happen. But what good did it do him in the end? He's gone now because of that advice and there's no outrage about it. Worry, concern, perplexity, yes--but nobody is angry that this preventable death was made WORSE by the use of all the traditional means for improving heart health.

According to Russert's doctor, he didn't have Type 2 diabetes nor did he have any blood sugar issues at all. His A1c was in the normal range and as I noted previously his cholesterol was considered VERY healthy. For all intents and purposes according to the modern day medical conventional wisdom, he was the epitome of perfect health. And yet he tragically died before his time.

We now know posthumously that Russert had coronary heart disease that he was being treated for, but his doctor apparently didn't know how severe it was. But even if he did know it was extremely serious, what else would he have recommended to Tim? Higher doses of his statin drug? Even less fat in his diet? More exercise? In the end, all of these seemingly good strategies from the conventional wisdom point of view would have very likely done NOTHING to prevent this from happening.

His doctor put him on blood pressure lowering medication as well as a cholesterol-lowering statin drug to see if that would help. And Russert even rode an exercise bike to try to lose weight, although it didn't work. There's no doubt the plaque buildup around his heart was getting bigger and bigger over the years until his heart couldn't take it any longer.

We know that too low LDL can lead to depression, suicide and death. We also know that HDL "good" cholesterol (Russert's was very low--NOT good) and triglycerides (something Russert dealt with having too high over the past few years) are better indicators of heart health than LDL and total cholesterol. And it's a high-carb, low-fat diet that leads to lower HDL and higher triglycerides. No doubt this is precisely the kind of diet Russert's doctor had him on.

As you know from reading my blog, my most recent total cholesterol reading was 326 with an LDL of 246, HDL of 65, and triglycerides at 77. I am confident I don't need to go on a statin drug now or ever and I am as healthy as I have ever been in my entire life. On face value, any typical physician in America would say to me, "Oh my God, you need to be on Lipitor, Crestor, or Zetia to lower your LDL and total cholesterol."

Of course, they would be 100% wrong because my LDL particle size is the protective large, fluffy kind that your body wants and needs. Dr. Eric Westman from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, who is the physician who ran this test on my behalf, said almost all of my LDL is this protective kind and the percentage of small, dense LDL (which was the likely culprit in Russert's fatal heart attack) is virtually nil. And that's a GREAT thing! High LDL can be good, but low HDL is most certainly ALWAYS a bad thing to have.

When you are livin' la vida low-carb correctly, then your HDL will be well above 50 and for women well above 70. At the same time, your triglycerides will drop below 100 for an HDL/triglyceride ratio of around 1. That's what you want. Of course, you will need to get the particle size of your cholesterol subsets measured using a VAP or Berkeley test, but you can almost be guaranteed that if your HDL is up over 50 and your triglycerides are down below 100 that your LDL particle size will be the large, fluffy protective kind.

This cholesterol issue is one I am quite passionate about because the modern means for dealing with it is simply exacerbating the problem. The medical community has the blinders on and they refuse to take them off long enough to see the harm they are doing to patient after patient they put on these risky prescription drugs for a purpose that is futile and fatal in the end like it was for Tim Russert.

Here are quite a few posts I have penned about the subject of cholesterol that I think you should read when you get a chance to help you understand this issue even better:

"Doctor Claims Blood Sugar, Not Cholesterol Linked To Heart Disease"
"Low-Carb Can Raise HDL Levels Without Cholesterol Medication"
"Cholesterol Numbers Drop But At What Cost"
"Cholesterol Drugs Are About Money Not Health"
"Cholesterol Conundrum: Do I Statin Or Not?"
"Doctor Gives Me Four Months To Get LDL Down"
"Consensus On Cholesterol Is Avoid Statins"

It's time to break all those years of cholesterol indoctrination. There will be confusion and concerns in your mind at times, but that's okay. My pithy response to anyone who challenges me on cholesterol is PROVE IT'S UNHEALTHY! They can't because there isn't one iota of truth to the cholesterol con.

There's much more to this cholesterol issue and the connection to Tim Russert's
death than most people even realize. I encourage you to read a few more commentaries from people in the health community who I respect and trust about this:

JACKIE EBERSTEIN from Controlled Carbohydrate Nutrition
"What We Can Learn From Tim Russert's Death"

DR. WILLIAM DAVIS from Heart Scan Blog
"Another failure of conventional cardiac care"
"Tim Russert's heart scan score 1998"

Hopefully my answer will make you feel better about this and that consuming a diet lower in carbs, higher in fat, and with moderate protein at every meal is what is going to work best for improving your heart health over the course of your life. If only Tim Russert had been given this information instead of the antiquated traditional advice he received, then his fatal heart attack may have been averted. Perhaps this event will begin a serious discussion of heart health treatment in this country so that others can benefit from the healthy low-carb lifestyle, too. We can only hope.

Anyone interested in learning more about the alternative cholesterol hypothesis I've written about today must check out the following books:

The Great Cholesterol Con by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick
The Great Cholesterol Con by Anthony Colpo
Hidden Truth about Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs by Shane Ellison
Malignant Medical Myths by Dr. Joel Kauffman
The Cholesterol Myths by Dr. Uffe Ravnskov
Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

6-24-08 UPDATE: In response to an anonymous comment left about this blog post regarding the kind of diet Tim Russert ate OBVIOUSLY being a low-carb one, here's my comment:

Actually, anonymous, livin' la vida low-carb is arguably the easiest diet you can possibly go on and do for the rest of your life. I tried livin' la vida low-fat in 1999 and THAT was not sustainable in the least. No, it doesn't take some willpower to lose weight, but rather a steadfast resolve to make better choices for your health. For me and many here at my blog, that was a low-carb diet.

As for Tim Russert, he most certainly was NOT on a low-carb diet because his triglycerides were very high and his HDL was very low...these are signs of a HIGH-carb, low-fat diet that his cardiologist no doubt put him on. Here's an excerpt from the New York Times about Russert's health:

Mr. Russert had low HDL, the protective cholesterol, and high triglycerides. He was quite overweight; a waist more than 40 inches in men increases heart risk. A CT scan of his coronary arteries in 1998 gave a calcium score of 210, indicating artery disease ā€” healthy arteries do not have calcium deposits ā€” and a moderate to high risk of a heart attack.

None of this happens on a low-carb diet and the studies show your HDL goes above 50 and your triglycerides fall below 100 when you are low-carbing correctly. And this is PROTECTIVE against a cardiovascular event.

The studies also show that a diet low in fat and high in carbs (generally recommended as "healthy" by most of the so-called experts) is what leads to lower HDL and higher triglycerides like Tim Russert had. This is the diet that ultimately killed him, not a low-carb diet.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that you lost a great deal of weight by eating low carb because the scale showed it.

I'll believe that your cholesterol pattern is healthy for your heart if you have a heart scan (or some other test of heart function)and it shows it.

One thing that makes me wonder is that most kinds of food have pros and cons for your health. Alcohol is good for your heart but raises your cancer risk. Beans have lots of toxins, but indigenous people who eat mainly beans have no diabetes. Fish has omega 3's that are good for you but mercury which isn't.

Maybe the way you eat has all pros for your health and no cons, but I'll be more convinced with more evidence than you just repeating it over and over. There must be a bunch of low carbers who have been on that diet for a long time and who have already had heart scans, I'd be curious to know how they did.

6/19/2008 6:45 AM  
Anonymous Matt Brody said...

Anyone who has a blog/website needs to link to this page as well as link to the pages Jimmy references. Many, many people are currently performing web searches on "Russert's Death Preventable" and posts of this type need to show up early and often, rather than the drivel from shocked cardiologists.

6/19/2008 8:15 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS Peter! I definitely want to get a heart scan done and am talking to my doctor about it next week. I'm sure plenty of my long-time low-carb readers will be happy to share their responses.

6/19/2008 10:32 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANK YOU, Matt! We DO need to spread the word about this because you're not gonna get this perspective in many other places.

6/19/2008 10:33 AM  
Blogger shortandsweet said...


Here is my profile:

LDL - 225
HDL - 60
Triglycerides - 90

Seems okay to me, but my doc is a bit concerned because my homocysteine level is high. What is yours?


6/19/2008 2:16 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Your HDL/triglyceride ratio is FABULOUS, Cathie! You are perfectly fine despite your 225 LDL and nearly 300 total cholesterol. You are arguably much more heart healthy than someone with LDL below 100 and total cholesterol below 125.

I don't know about my homocysteine level, but I can ask my doctor when I speak to him next week. :)

6/19/2008 2:32 PM  
Blogger shortandsweet said...

Thanks, Jimmy! I will be interested in knowing what your level is. My doc says a high level is an indication of inflammation of some sort, not sure where.


6/19/2008 5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Low carb is unhealthy. Check out McDougalling. It's guaranteed to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar. Its the healthiest way to eat by far.

If low carbing is low healthy why did Atkins die? By "slipping on the ice?" Doubt it.

Also I doubt the moderator will publish this.

6/24/2008 1:09 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

People like anonymous here are PRECISELY why Tim Russert died. They spread misinformation about healthy low-carb living and people fall for it hook, line, and sinker.

I'm familiar with McDougall and if it works to help someone with their weight and health, then I have no qualms with it. That's their choice and I applaud them for making an effort.

Anyone who makes fun of the way the late great Dr. Robert C. Atkins died has no credibility in my book. Sensationalizing it by bringing the veracity of the facts in question into doubt only make you look intellectually limited and unable to lay aside your personal bias against the low-carb lifestyle.

Finally, I don't moderate any comments unless they are especially profane, vulgar, or advertising something. You have a right to your opinion and a right to be wrong. :) THANK YOU for sharing!

6/24/2008 1:22 PM  
Blogger J said...

I really dislike Anonymous postings. If you do not have the guts to put your name behind something you say then your comments are worth nothing. Dr. Atkins was a good man who helped a lot of people. My mom died of kidney failure earlier this year and I can most certainly say that the body can put on 60 or 70 or more LBS of water when your Kidneys cannot function like Dr. Atkins' did. People have eaten low carb for millions of years. Only recently have we ate flour and sugar and processed garbage like we eat today. You anonymous need to get educated on the subject because it is quite clear you know not what you speak of!

6/24/2008 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also and another thing...Low carbing is VERY DIFFICULT to sustain. Jimmy you must have EXCEPTIONAL willpower to keep it up and lose that much weight.

McDougall is MUCH easier to keep up. You never get cravings for foods not on the plan unlike Atkins where you constantly crave that slice of pizza or a big bowl of pasta.

I do not wish to flame your board. I only came here via google search of "Tim Russert Diet" to find out just what the guy was eating to have that much plaque built up in his arteries. Probably low carb. Take care and good health to all.

6/24/2008 3:56 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

anonymous obviously knows nothing about the low carb diet. It's rather humorous to read. Thanks for the belly laugh, anon. Pity you're not confident enough in your assessment to put a name to your claims.

Jimmy, thank YOU for a most informative post and the great links provided, too. My first thought (after great sadness and loss) was that Tim's doctor probably had him on statins, low fat, high carb diet with lots of cardio - and whaddya know... that's exactly what he had him on.

Pity Tim's doctor hadn't honestly taken a good, hard look at all the information out there on low carb and how healthy it is. :-/

We have lost a great man way too soon and the awful thing about it is that it was most likely preventable..... "if only....." *sigh*

6/24/2008 4:59 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Dach MD said...

Tim Russert and George Carlin

Two beloved American celebrities have succumbed to heart disease before their time. The national response has been disappointment in a medical system that could allow this to happen. What could have been done differently to save the lives of both Tim and George, to avoid this fatal outcome?

To read more...Saving Tim Russert and George Carlin by Jeffrey Dach MD

Jeffrey Dach MD
4700 Sheridan Suite T
Hollywood FL 33021
my web site

7/01/2008 7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My experience with a very low carb, high fat diet.

Started diet at Age 57, weight 186 (highest ever), total cholesterol 207, triglycerides 149, HDL 41, and LDL 136. Blood pressure between high normal and pre-hypertension.

Lost 23lbs in 9 months, with total cholesterol 182, triglycerides 79, HDL 46, LDL 120. Sounded pretty good to me!

3 months later, still on low carb diet, had lost additional 4 lbs, and feeling real good...then I had a heart attack. They placed 2 stents in 2 blocked arteries, also the main coronary artery is 40% blocked and I'm looking at bypass surgery in the future.

Now I'm on a full regiment of drugs. Lost additional 10 lbs, and stayed on low carb, but now also low fat. With the drugs, total cholesterol 110, triglycerides 50, HDL 44, LDL 57. Blood pressure is now very very low.

Ok, what happened?

7/18/2008 1:40 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Thank you anonymous and I'm sorry for your heart attack, but your low-carb diet didn't cause your heart attack. We all have genetic predispositions for various health problems based on our familial history. Did heart attacks or stroke run in your family?

I'm assuming you're a woman based on your weight. Looking at your numbers, they look pretty good after 9 months, although your fat must not have been very high since your HDL never rose above 50. For women, HDL tends to go higher--a good thing!

Based on that low "good" cholesterol, I would assume your lipid profile particle size is a mixed bag. When your LDL particle size is comprised of the small, dense kind, then you put yourself at greater risk for a cardiovascular event. While you may have some of the large, fluffy protective LDL particle size, it was likely you also had a good amount of middle range and small.

Again I'm sorry for your heart attack and wish you well as you recover. But this had nothing at all to do with your low-carb diet. Thanks for your comment.

7/18/2008 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jimmy,

I too, don't think the carbs caused my heart attack. It was the high saturated fats that did it. Atkins type of diet is not for everyone, especially the older you get. If I had been in my 30's and very active, it would probably have caused no adverse problems, only lost weight. I feel the "one diet fits all" does not take in to account the differences between the sexes, body types, medical history, and how we change with age. Recently, there have been a couple University studies that have found dieters on the Atkins type diet benefited best in weight loss and improved cholesterol and blood pressure. But, I didn't read any disclaimers about who it was best for, or who it was not. I think more emphases has to be on developing diet plans that are tailored for individual types and ages, and not just blanket diet statements and plans. Jimmy, whats you feeling on this?

p.s. I'm a 59 year old male, not female as you thought, Iā€™m little over 5'8" and now weight 150.

7/19/2008 11:43 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Anyone who has read my blog knows I am all in favor of people finding a healthy proven plan that is tailored to the individual. But I have to disagree that the saturated fat is what "caused" your heart attack. There is no evidence showing saturated fat is at the root cause of cardiovascular disease. It's inflammation from consuming too many carbohydrates and an oxidation of the cells. I tee-totally agree we need more emphasis on finding the diet that's right for you. I've been preaching that message for years.

7/19/2008 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Danny said...

I am so glad I found your blog. I am a 59 year old male...
My readings while on strictly modified Atkins diet (no bread) is
Total C: 255
HDL: 89
LDL: 134
Triglycerides: 105
My doctor wants to put me on medications which I refuse. Some years ago 300 was considered fine for total C. What happened? Suddenly its below 200?

7/28/2008 9:29 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Your numbers are FANTASTIC, Danny! I wouldn't worry and it's not surprising your doctor is wanting to put you on a statin. It's ridiculous! CONGRATS on your awesome health.

7/28/2008 10:13 PM  

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