Tribute to Tim Russert

The sudden passing of news giant, Tim Russert, yesterday of sudden cardiac death struck a blow to American consciousness.

Perhaps his hard-hitting interviewing style, while making guests squirm, made him seem invincible. But, of course, none of us is invincible. We are all vulnerable to this disease.

We should not allow Mr. Russert's tragic death to occur without taking some lessons. The media have already resorted to interviewing prominent doctors for their opinion.

Douglas Zipes, M.D., former President of the American College of Cardiology,was quoted in the media:

"An automated external defibrillator (AED) could have been a life-saver. AEDs should be as common as fire extinguishers."

This is typical sleight-of-hand, medicine-is-too-complex-for-the-public-to-understand sort of rhetoric that is surely to issue from the conventionally-thinking medical people and the press. Instead, let's cut the BS and learn the real lessons from Mr. Russert's needless death.

It is virtually certain that:

--Mr. Russert ruptured an existing coronary atherosclerotic plaque, prompting rhythm instability, or ventricular fibrillation.

--Making automatic external defibrillators (AED) available might have Band-Aided the ventricular fibrillation, but it would not have stopped the heart attack that triggered it.

--Though full details of Mr. Russert's health program have not been made available, it is quite likely that he was prescribed the usual half-witted and barely effective panoply of "prevention": aspirin, statin drug, anti-hypertensive medication. Readers of The Heart Scan Blog and members of Track Your Plaque know that this conventional approach is as effective as aspirin for a fractured hip.

--It is highly unlikely that all causes of Mr. Russert's heart disease had been identified--did he have small LDL (it's certain he did, given his body habitus of generous tummy), Lp(a), low HDL, pre-diabetic patterns, inflammatory abnormalities, vitamin D deficiency, etc.? You can be sure little or none of this had been addressed. Was he even taking simple fish oil that reduces the likelihood of sudden cardiac death by 45%?

--Far more could have been done to have prevented Mr. Russert's needless death. And I don't mean the idiocy of making AED's available in office buildings. I'm talking about preventing the rupture of atherosclerotic plaque in the first place.

Far more can be done to prevent future similar deaths among all of us.

Our jobs are to use the tragic death of Mr. Russert to help those around us learn that heart disease is identifiable and preventable. Though Mr. Russert did not stand for BS in his political commentary, he sadly probably received it in his health advice. Don't let this happen to you or those around you.

Comments (11) -

  • Anonymous

    6/14/2008 2:09:00 PM |

    Amen to everything you said Dr. and one other point I heard a nimber of times yesterday, everybody was in shock because Mr. Russert had just had a stress test done in April and passed with no problems ! As all your readers know what a stupid thing to say.

  • lenjoe

    6/14/2008 8:59:00 PM |

    Dr Davis,
    I appreciate your posting on Tim Russerts passing.  I was a big fan of his. I believe if he had worked half as hard on his heart health as he did on his career we would be enjoying him on TV for many years to come.  Of all the commentators discussions since his passing, the most important things aren't being discussed.  His diet (low fat I'd guess), his meds (statins I'm sure)...He did have a good stress test April 29.  Lot of good that did.

  • Anonymous

    6/15/2008 12:00:00 AM |

    Russert had both CAD & diabetes.

    Newsweek health article about Russert and sudden cardiac arrest:

    Usual blather about not being able to prevent/predict sudden cardiac death, risk factors, and usefulness of defibrillators, etc.

  • The Daley Planet

    6/15/2008 12:33:00 AM |

    Thank you for this commentary.
    His passing is very sad.
    My uncle had the same thing happen at a relatively young age as well.

    By the way, can you suggest a fish oil for those of us whom are allergic to shellfish?
    I've heard we can use any type of fish oil; just not krill oil.
    Does Sam's Club Maker's Mark fall under that category?

    Thank you!

  • Mike Donovan

    6/15/2008 3:33:00 AM |

    Regarding the death Of Tim Russert:

    In the new issue of Newsweek, Dr. Steven Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic told the magazine when asked about the role of STRESS and heart attacks:

    "Most of us do not think it is terribly relevant," and explained this with a shocking lack of logical thinking: Newsweek writes, "After all, he notes, "many people in this world have stressful jobs," and they don't all die of of heart attacks.

    Time Magazine named Dr. Nissen one of the 100 Most Influential People In The World in their "Scientists and Thinkers" section.

    Think about that.

    Now, consider the completely illogical statement from Dr. Nissen bolded above. One thing should be made perfectly clear in light of this statement: He believes cholesterol as very relevant to heart attack risk. Yet, to turn his Newsweek comments around, "many people in this world have **high cholesterol**" and they don't all die of heart attacks.

    In fact, study after study shows countries with the highest rates of fat intake and the highest average cholesterol rates have the lowest incidence of heart disease. Imagine that!

    Dr. Nissen's irresponsible and illogical comments in Newsweek shows - again - the complete bamboozlement the cholesterol hypothesis has on western medicine just because, "everyone knows," high cholesterol causes Coronary Heart Disease. How do they know this? "Because everyone knows." Ad nauseum. With a little research, the facts show this is simply not true.

    What Dr. Nissen said about stress can be said about high cholesterol. Plenty of people live with both without having heart attacks.

    Maybe Mr. Russert's death can help in bringing us back to real science as opposed to what Big Pharma dictates as what is science - and what is not. Follow the money.

    How ironic that it was Dr. Nissen who made such a horrible misstep in logic with his comments to millions of readers in Newsweek.

  • Henry Fielding

    6/15/2008 11:00:00 AM |

    I have a couple of questions that were put to me about Heart Scans that I can't answer. Perhaps you will indulge me.

    First, from a Doctor friend of mine:  Most of the widely used diagnostic tests have been studied with respect to their Specificity, Sensitivity, positive and negative predictive value, etc. We know how to use them, and we know how to interpret the information they provide. Last I read, there is not enough correlation between the amount of calcium present in the walls of the coronary arteries, and the degree of coronary sclerosis. Maybe in time there will be enough convincing data - but for now, it is wrong to blame the slowness of the acceptance of the test by the medical community solely on financial interest.

    Second, from another friend:

    I had the EBT test and showed a calcium score of 950. An angiogram showed no blockage. Go figure. The Doc thinks the calcium is in between the artery walls with the lumen free.

  • Dr. B G

    6/15/2008 5:02:00 PM |

    Russert traditionally appeared on Charlie Rose right before Father's Day.  They were good friends -- Rose sold his house in Washington DC to him and aired a moving tribute the night after his sudden MI.

    Russert loved his father and wrote a famous book about him 'Big Russ'. It is ironic his own death was right before Father's Day today. And so much much more awful for his surviving son whom he loved so much and was very vocal about.

    I hope a new movement for cardiovascular and diabetes prevention may be sparked over this needless, rescue-able, tragic event.

    He touched so many lives... fathers, Buffalo fans, media, political enthusiasts...

    (I'm glad my Dad is aware of Track Your Plaque -- Thank you Dr. Davis... and Happy Father's Day!)


  • Dr. William Davis

    6/15/2008 9:36:00 PM |


    Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comments. I coudn't agree more.

  • Dr. William Davis

    6/15/2008 9:38:00 PM |


    I'm sorry, but if friend told you that, you need new friends.

    The literature exists and there's quite a bit of it. Just because your friend is completely ignorant of a body of scientific literature several thousand studies long does not mean that it doesn't exist.

    All of your questions can be answered on the website.

  • Henry Fielding

    6/15/2008 9:40:00 PM |

    I buy my Fish Oil from Costco. It happens to be Nature Made 1200mg softgels. Don't let anybody worry you about mercury content on this kind of product. None of these brands have any in them.

    If it causes any problems, take it with food.

  • buy jeans

    11/3/2010 2:23:19 PM |

    --Far more could have been done to have prevented Mr. Russert's needless death. And I don't mean the idiocy of making AED's available in office buildings. I'm talking about preventing the rupture of atherosclerotic plaque in the first place.