Heart disease is simple and depressing

Heart disease is simple. We know what causes it. LDL cholesterol builds up in blood vessels until they are blocked, causing a sudden heart attack. Diet, exercise and statin drugs all cut the risk, but that risk rises constantly with age, and it starts with your first childhood Ho-Ho.

Box of DingDongs from Hostess BakeriesOne thing Dr. Helen Hobbs of UT-Dallas told me at last year's Predictive Health Conference at Emory stayed with me.

Heart disease is simple.

We know what causes it. LDL cholesterol builds up in blood vessels until they are blocked, causing a sudden heart attack.

Diet, exercise and statin drugs all cut the risk, but that risk rises constantly with age, and it starts with your first childhood Ho-Ho. (In my case, Ding-Dongs. Loved 'em.)

It's this simplicity that probably caused Pfizer to decide that heart disease should no longer be its priority. Its Lipitor will go generic in 2011 and the statin well has about run dry.

Depressed yet? Well, heart disease is depressing, which is why the American Heart Association now wants all heart patients screened for clinical depression. Before they break into the Ho-Hos or Ding-Dongs, I guess.

Patients who during a check-up say they are feeling down or have little interest in doing things should be given seven more questions, and if scored high enough referred to their psychiatrists. (Psychiatrists heartily endorsed the recommendation.)

Therapy or drugs might be tried, but the best course, again, is exercise. If you're already at major risk for heart attack this must be done carefully.

But take a walk. Smell the flowers. Listen to the birds. If your spirits are raised you will live longer.

Longer than on a diet of Ding-Dongs, unfortunately. Which is terribly depressing.

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