On Friday, June 13, 2008, 58-year-old Tim Russert was at his NBC News offices in Washington, D.C., preparing for his Sunday news program, “Meet the Press.” The hard-nosed and affable Russert had hosted the popular program for the past 16 years. At 1:30 p.m., he suddenly felt ill, cried out his last words—“What’s happening?”—and collapsed. He was immediately attended to by colleagues, who performed CPR, and rushed to a nearby hospital, where resuscitative measures were unsuccessful.
An autopsy revealed that Russert had died of a ruptured cholesterol plaque in the left coronary artery. The ruptured plaque resulted in a blood clot in the artery, which cut off the blood supply to the heart, causing Russert’s heart to stop.
Russert had been treated by his physicians for low-grade coronary heart disease. He had a stress test two months earlier that was normal. He was on statin medication for high cholesterol, and had lowered his so-called bad cholesterol, the LDL, to 67 mg/dL, the exact level recommended by all U.S. national health care policy boards. By all conventional criteria, he was considered a low-risk patient, and both he and his doctors had done everything right…
As tragic as the sudden death of Tim Russert was, it is one of the most common, and the single-most feared, ways in which heart disease becomes evident. Although his untimely death was not predictable, Russert remained at risk for heart disease despite receiving top-notch medical care. As you go through this book, you will come to understand what this risk was, and by the time you reach Chapter 15, where the rest of the Russert story is revealed, you will see why top-notch medical care by itself is often not enough to prevent what happened to Russert.
There are multiple medical conditions, genetic predispositions and environmental influences that increase the risk of heart disease. However, the one risk that underlies the development of nearly all heart and circulatory disorders is created by abnormalities in blood cholesterol. Today we know that this means more than just a high cholesterol level. If you are among the 100 million Americans who have cholesterol disorders, then you either already have, or are at risk for developing, heart and circulatory problems. This book is for you.