Did you know that over 1.5 million angioplasties and coronary bypass surgeries are performed in the US every year - making heart surgery the most common surgical procedure for men and women? Even more concerning, the majority of heart surgeries are actually unnecessary. According to board-certified cardiologist Dr Michael Ozner, they don't prolong lives nor do they prevent subsequent heart disease. Read on for what your doctor isn't telling you about your heart health.
Heart surgery stats
Americans are seven times more likely to undergo coronary angioplasty and bypass surgery than people in Canada and Sweden, but the number of people who die of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in these countries is equivalent to the US. What does that tell you? Dr Michael Ozner, author of The Great American Heart Hoax: Lifesaving Advice Your Doctor Should Tell You About Heart Disease Prevention
, blames it on the self-interests of profit-centric hospitals and cardiology industry, who have made it their business to perform as many - expensive - heart surgeries and diagnostic tests as possible, despite the fact bypass surgery and angioplasty have never been shown to significantly lengthen life or decrease heart attacks. "It concerns me that countless patients are subjected every day to unnecessary (potentially harmful) surgery," says Dr Ozner, who is one of the leading advocates of heart disease prevention in the US. "Although cardiologists hasten to assure their patients that these procedures are time-tested and safe, all invasive surgery carries risk." According to the medical director of Wellness & Prevention at Baptist Health South Florida, the mortality rate from bypass surgery ranges from 3 to 5 percent (significant if you consider the number of people who get the surgery), an estimated 25 to 30 percent of angioplasties fail and need to be redone, and eventually many angioplasty patients will require bypass surgery. Equally concerning, 80 percent of patients who get bypass surgery experience cognitive difficulties and are nearly four times more likely to suffer a subsequent stroke. Plus, surgery makes them more vulnerable to infections.
What can heart patients do?
Dr Ozner, who also wrote The Miami Meditteranean Diet
, advocates — citing numerous studies - lifestyle changes and cardiac medication when appropriate, since these approaches to heart disease have been proven to prolong life and prevent heart disease. Most important, the heart doctor advocates prevention before heart disease develops. (Read Dr Ozner's 10-step heart disease prevention program
.) Dr Ozner says one of the most optimal approaches to heart heart is following the Mediterranean-style diet and lifestyle. The Mediterranean diet is low in saturated fat and processed food and is renowned for its association with a low incidence of heart disease. Dr Ozner explains, "Since coronary heart disease is a metabolic disorder, involving cholesterol and other risk factors, it requires a metabolic, not surgical solution." Here are some Mediterranean recipes to start cooking today: Make a healthy Mediterranean meal Mediterranean recipe: Saucy Shrimp and Scallops Mouthwatering Mediterranean meals
But not all heart surgery is a hoax
Despite the overemphasis by hospitals and cardiologists of heart surgery and expensive diagnostic procedures, there are cases when the need for heart surgery is clearly appropriate. Blockage in the left main coronary artery:
The left main coronary artery is the main trunk artery that branches into two arteries that supply blood to the left — or main — side of the heart muscle. According to Dr Ozner, a blockage in this artery is a very serious form of heart disease and that patients with this blockage have been shown to significantly benefit from bypass surgery. Incapacitating chest pain:
Heart surgery may be necessary — and appropriate — if you have debilitating chest pain that isn't alleviated with medication. Critical blockages:
If you have a weak heart muscle coupled with critical blockages in three coronary arteries, heart surgery may save your life. Heart attack:
Urgent measures, such as coronary angioplasty, are needed to restore blood flow as quickly as possible and minimize impending heart damage when someone is having a heart attack. However, keep in mind that regardless of the appropriateness for heart surgery in these cases, heart disease is largely preventable. And the sooner you start living a heart-healthy lifestyle (and taking medication if necessary), the lower your chances of developing a fatal heart problem and the more likely your heart-healthy intentions will keep you off the operating table.