Former President George W. Bush seems an unlikely candidate for heart disease considering heart problems don’t run in his family, he’s not overweight or a smoker, he is an avid runner, and he watches what he eats.
So how did he end up with a clogged cardiac artery that led to a stent procedure?
“People forget that stress is a key risk factor for heart disease,” Chauncey Crandall, M.D., one the nation’s top cardiologists, told Newsmax Health.
“Being president of the United States brings with it crazy stress, which often shows up later in the form of heart disease,” said Dr. Crandall, head of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic.
Bush, 67, is said to be in high spirits and recovering well following the stent implant at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The artery blockage was discovered during a routine examination on Monday and he had the procedure Tuesday morning.
Bush will likely make a full recovery, said Dr. Crandall. “If he goes on a plant-based diet and makes other changes, like leading a life of less stress, he should live out his normal lifespan.”
A stent is a wire mesh tube that is used to keep a coronary artery open and blood flowing following angioplasty, a procedure used to widen a vessel that has become narrowed due to heart disease.
Coronary heart disease, or atherosclerosis, occurs when fatty deposits build up in the heart’s coronary arteries, which narrows them and can lead to a heart attack. In Bush’s case, the blockage was discovered before a heart attack occurred.
According to a statement, Bush underwent the procedure after performing a heart stress test during a routine physical.
“Most likely what happened is that, during the stress test the doctors saw a change in his EKG that indicated a problem,” said Dr. Crandall, author of the Heart Health Report newsletter.
“They then sent him for a cardiac catheterization, which is the gold standard of cardiac testing. That test probably showed that one artery was critically blocked, so the decision was made to insert the stent,” Dr. Crandall added.
Although Bush has said he was a smoker and out of shape as young man, by the time he became president, he was an avid runner, having finished a marathon in 1993. As president, his routine was to run three miles, six days a week.
Bush’s case shows that exercise is no guarantee of heart health, said Dr. Crandall.
“People do not realize how much of a role stress plays in the formation of coronary artery disease,” he said. “Stress causes the body to release unhealthy hormones into the bloodstream, which promote the formation of atherosclerosis, even in the absence of other heart disease risk factors.
“Even while Bush was president, the formation of coronary disease in his arteries was probably well underway due to stress. We’ve seen what happened to Bill Clinton as well.”
Four years after leaving office, Clinton underwent quadruple bypass surgery to restore blood flow to his heart and, after that, the placement of two stents to reopen one of those bypassed arteries that had become blocked.
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