Monday, June 16, 2008

Missing Tim

I really liked Tim Russert. Aside from the fact I become easily enamored by people on TV who actually know what they're talking about, and who actually know who they are talking to, he was a genuine "down home" boy who never forgot where he came from. He exuded humility. You could see that in his interviews, in his shows, and in the respect he showed to everyone. He helped me understand politics the way Mr. Hamilton never could (besides, at that time, spit wads and passing notes had priority). I felt like I knew him - and surely he knew me. After all, he was in my family room talking several times a week. And I loved the way he unapologetically spoke of his faith and loved his family. I am as fascinated with his death as I was his life.

So when I heard he died of a heart attack, I was particularly taken aback. Was I surprised? Absolutely not. Was I saddened? Oh yes. I've been in the health/prevention/cardiac business for over 34 years, and my husband (who is Tim's age) will tell you I predicted Mr. Russert's demise a month or so ago. And I only saw him on TV - never met the guy in person. It was the weight, fluid retention, hard-driving style that told me he was working his way to heaven on the fast track. I've seen it a thousand times.

So a word to all of you twenty-somethings out there - here's the skinny, and I don't use that word loosely. Take heart, Luke Russert. Carry your dad's legacy and listen up. Heart disease doesn't start in adulthood - it starts in childhood with poor choices (our "All-American" choices) including food, drink (aka alcohol), and activity. There's a little bit of bad luck involved, but as many scientists will tell you, "Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger." Some of us just picked the wrong mom and dad when it comes to heart disease. But when your mom said eat your vegetables, dine from the sea, stay out of the cookie jar, and go ride your bike, it wasn't for punishment. It was because Mom Always Knows Best (well, some do) and she loves you. Fatty streaks, the precursor to coronary artery disease, have been found in children as young as ten. The damage to the arteries occurs over time, and by the time you have a piece of plaque that is blocking 30-40% of an artery, you are a heart attack waiting to happen, and it's quite possible you may be only 30-something. Those 30-40% blockages are the causes of heart attacks, not the 100% blockages. And always keep that waist size under 40 (women - 35). And women are just as vulnerable as men - often moreso.

My heavy heart is with the Russert family. Apparently God needed a really smart politico in heaven before this election. And maybe this is a message to us all. Take care of yourself before something preventable has it's way with you, slams you, cripples you, kills you, has your family asking why?? Because once it strikes, it never goes away. Unless you're superhuman like the Dean Ornish type (kudos to them).

There is nothing more sad that a 30-40 year old bypass patient (or dead person) with small children left to survive on their own. Out of work, disabled from heart disease, fear of walking to the mailbox lest another event is precipitated, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Good blood pressure, good cholesterol, and proper weight in your early years do not make you immune from the disease process. It is happening as I speak. And for the sake of your body, that holy temple the Good Lord blessed you with, keep the trash out of it, keep it moving, and pray like it's your last day on earth.

Heart disease was not Tim's bailiwick. Journalism is not mine. Surely we can all help each other.
Tea tonight: Heavenly Tea Organic Bamboo Green (how appropriate!)