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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Stress as factor for cardiac arrest felled along with author who did not sweat the small stuff?

I'm a hard-working guy who suffered a heart attack at age 51 despite not smoking, and staying in shape via regular exercise. Although it was hard to overlook the genetic factor of my younger brother preceding me with his own myocardial infarction (as the cardiologists refer to it), many acquaintances figured that both of us probably created our own problem by being too stressed. After reading this morning that Richard Carlson, author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, passed away on Wednesday due to cardiac arrest, I feel less sure than ever that stress creates heart problems. Ironically at this time just before Christmas, Carlson, only 45 years of age, died en route to an a New York city promotional appearance for his new book Don't Get Scrooged: How to Thrive in a World Full of Obnoxious, Incompetent, Arrogant and Downright Mean-Spirited People.

The American Heat Association in their detailing of Risk Factors and Coronary Heart Disease puts stress near the bottom of the list and speculates that people suffering from this may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they otherwise would -- all more likely to create problems than stress itself. The most stress that I ever experienced was driving into Manhattan for a Broadway play and getting stuck in a traffic jam entering the Lincoln Tunnel. I made the mistake of being 'Minnesota nice' by letting someone wedge into line ahead of me. This precipitated widespread honking of horns from irate New Yorkers waiting impatiently all around me. A cursory internet search on stress studies dredged up Exposure to New York City as a Risk Factor for Heart Attack Mortality. It seems that I cannot yet rest my case against stress being a factor for causing heart problems, especially since Carlson was heading for New York when he suffered his cardiac arrest. :(


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