“If there’s one number that’s a predictor of mortality, it’s waist circumference,” Dr. Michael A. Newman, an internist for the late Tim Russert, has told N.Y. Times reporter Denise Grady.
It’s significant when a high-profile death from heart failure results in a restating of a basic truth that millions choose to ignore — i.e., a bulky, rotund or Jabba-sized paunch is a probable indicator of less time on the planet earth. No ifs, ands or buts.
Newman adds, however, that “most people would rather focus on their LDL cholesterol, instead of taking measures to reduce their waist size. Studies have found a waist of over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women is a risk factor for heart disease.” Is Jabba Nation listening? Will moms and dads start to change lifestyle habits and diets of their obese children in the wake of this? Sure. For two or three weeks.
“Mr. Russert’s cholesterol was not high,” Newman tells Grady, “and medicine controlled his high blood pressure pretty well. But, he added, Mr. Russert was ‘significantly overweight..’ He also had a dangerous combination of other risk factors: high triglycerides (caused by sugar, alcohol, dairy products, red meat), a type of fat in the blood, and a low level of HDL, the ‘good cholesterol” that can help the body get rid of the bad cholesterol that can damage arteries.
“If there is any lesson in Russert’s death, his doctors said, it is a reminder that heart disease can be silent, and that people, especially those with known risk factors, should pay attention to diet, blood pressure, weight and exercise — even if they are feeling fine.
“It is not clear whether Mr. Russert’s death could have been prevented. He was doing nearly all he could to lower his risk. He took blood pressure pills and a statin drug to control his cholesterol, he worked out every day on an exercise bike, and he was trying to lose weight, his doctors said on Monday. And still it was not enough.”