The Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta‘s Dr. Eldon R. Smith OC was recently quoted in the Globe and Mail. The article asks the question, heart attack or bad gas? His comments highlighted that there is little that is black or white …
Article: Heart attack or bad gas?
Calgary cardiologist Eldon Smith, a former dean of medicine at the University of Calgary, wasn’t all that reassuring when I spoke to him about baby boomers and chest pains. Diagnosing heart disease is such an inexact science, he told me, that “cardiologists can find no evidence of heart disease and a patient can still die within two months.” Oh, great.
As for those stress tests – I had one and aced it – Dr. Smith says he has heard of doctors who gave patients full cardio workups, including a stress test, declared them fine “and the patient dies before leaving the laboratory.” Stop, Doc, you’re killing me.
Of course, there are facts that will tell the examining doctor a lot, including what you were doing when you first felt the pain. “If you were walking quickly uphill and the pain was there, but it subsided when you stopped, that’s pretty good evidence” that there may be underlying heart problems, Dr. Smith said.
He recently led a steering committee responsible for developing a new strategy to fight heart disease in Canada, and is more interested in drumming heart-healthy lifestyle practices into all of us, including being physically active, not smoking, maintaining a good weight, eating fruits and vegetables and less salt, regularly checking cholesterol levels, and – if you’re over 50 – taking an aspirin a day.
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