Family lessons

Lou was recovering from his 3rd bypass operation. This third go-round left him weaker, slower, less quick on the rebound. In fact, he was lucky to have survived.

At 71 years old, Lou went a good 15 years since his second bypass, another 10 years prior to his first bypass at age 46.

In the days immediately following Lou's bypass, I had a chance to talk to his son, who stayed at his Dad's bedside while Lou struggled through post-op recovery.

"Did your Dad tell you about why this has happened, what caused his heart disease?" I asked.

"Sort of. He just said I should get checked," Lou's son, Aaron, replied.

"Did he mention the lipoprotein(a) pattern he has?"

"No. He never mentioned anything like that. He just said to get checked."

That's how it gets played out more often than not: Mom or Dad has a heart attack, stents, or (3rd) bypass, the children are told to get checked. Getting "checked" assumes that the doctor knows what to check for.

In Lou's case, the reason why he was in the hospital getting his 3rd (and final) bypass was lipoprotein(a), along with genetically-determined small LDL particles, low HDL, a postprandial (after-eating) disorder, hypertension, and borderline diabetes, not to mention vitamin D deficiency, omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, and marginal thyroid function. (Lou, a retired city employee, had showed only marginal interest in correcting these patterns. While he accepted medications, he proved unwilling to engage in the diet and nutritional supplement strategies required to correct his patterns.)

So Lou's 3rd bypass operation provided a moment of reflection for Aaron to ask: "Could I share the fate of my Dad?" With Lou's combination of genetic patterns, there was at least a 75% likelihood that he did. Sadly, going to his doctor would likely yield little more than a cholesterol panel, a question about smoking, and a prescription for Lipitor.

Just getting "checked" would be, more than likely, a recipe for disaster for Aaron: heart disease in his 40s or 50s. That's why you need to take control over this sad state of affairs and ask--no, insist--that an effort be made to determine whether you might share your parents' fate.

Comments (4) -

  • Gretchen

    1/17/2010 9:08:20 PM |

    I've had 2 GPs, 1 endocrinologist, and 1 cardiologist refuse to prescribe a cholesterol particle size test or show any interest in Lp(a). I finally paid for it myself.

    It's not always easy to get all the tests the experts say we need.

  • Anonymous

    1/18/2010 5:42:01 AM |

    nice article. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did any one learn that some chinese hacker had busted twitter yesterday again.

  • Anonymous

    1/18/2010 9:23:50 AM |

    I know. Get checked for what? Vitamin D, Omega 3? Genetic Predisposition? Even if I could afford the tests, I would be on my own interpreting them. Then what? It's unlikely that I would change any outlook my doc has in the 9 min I spend with him for a check up.

  • Dr. William Davis

    1/19/2010 1:17:23 AM |

    Hi, Gretchen--

    Sadly, mainstream healthcare is better described as either catastrophic care (breaking a bone, heart attack) or least common denominator healthcare (do the little that most others do when it falls out of the catastrophic category).