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!