1. Bill Clinton should take a walk

    I sure wish Bill Clinton had read last summer's Guide to Good Health called "Skip the Angioplasty and Start Moving." He'd have been better off.

    Last summer German scientists studied heart disease patients just like Bill Clinton. Each of the patients in the study had angina (chest pain) with some artery blockage. But overall, they were in pretty good health. (Interestingly, this is exactly the same way doctors described the former President's condition in February. He hadn't suffered a heart attack or heart damage. He just had some narrowing of the arteries with chest pain.)

    If you walk into most hospitals today with these symptoms, you'd probably get a fast pass for an angioplasty. But German scientists wanted to see if that's really the best option.

    Which works better: angioplasty or exercise?

    The scientists divided the heart disease patients into two groups. The first group received an angioplasty to fix the clogged artery. For this procedure, doctors clear out the clogged artery and place a stent (or tube) in that spot. The second group didn't get angioplasties. They just began a daily exercise regimen.

    Doctors followed up with patients five years later. Any guesses which group fared better?

    Well, 63 percent of patients who followed a daily exercise regimen did not suffer a cardiac event (such as heart attack, stroke, or death). On the other hand, only 40 percent of patients who received an angioplasty survived without a similar cardiac event.

    The exercise group clearly fared better! They had almost 25 percent fewer heart attacks, strokes, and deaths. But don't cite that statistic to any cardiologist...

    You see, cardiologists perform 1.2 million angioplasties each year in this country. It's their bread and butter. Plus, angioplasties encourage repeat business. In fact, if you're anything like Bill Clinton, your first angioplasty isn't going to be your last. But in my book, the choice is perfectly clear. If you've got chest pain due to narrowing of the arteries, get moving!

  2. Skip the angioplasty and start moving!

    So you've got heart disease and your arteries have begun to narrow. Technically, it's called coronary artery disease (CAD). And it's the most common type of heart disease. You may even consider yourself lucky. Up until this point, your biggest complaint has been occasional angina pain (or chest pain) due to narrowing of your blood vessels.

    But at your most recent check up, your doctor said you're a ticking time bomb. He found a clogged artery this time around. He said the only way to prevent a heart attack or stroke is to do an angioplasty. This is where the doctor places a small folded balloon into your artery. He then inflates the balloon to help open up blood flow. Doing this usually flushes out the plague that may have caused the blockage in the first place. Then a stent, or small tube, is placed there to keep the artery propped open following the procedure.

    The big question is: Should you take his advice and go under the knife? It's seems as though every Tom, Dick, and Harry on your street has already gotten one. Why not you? In fact, in the U.S. alone, we spend $25 billion a year for doctors to perform 1.2 million angioplasties...they must do the trick, right?

    Well, not so fast. According to new research out of Germany, you're much better off starting an exercise program than getting an angioplasty.

    German scientists from the University of Leipzig studied heart disease patients to see what kind of treatment turned up the best results. Each of the patients had angina, but were generally considered in stable condition. They were also all candidates for angioplasty, meaning one of their arteries had narrowed to the point of causing angina.
    The scientists divided their heart disease patients into two groups: one group received an angioplasty to treat their clogged artery and one group began a daily exercise regimen. They followed up with each patient after five years. They found that 63 percent of patients who followed a moderate daily exercise program survived without experiencing a cardiac event (such as heart attack, stroke, or death). On the other hand, only 40 percent of patients who received an angioplasty survived without a similar cardiac event.

    To me, this stunning research should make your decision crystal clear. Skip the angioplasty and tell your cardiologist you're going for a walk. Literally.

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