The heart problem that George W. Bush was treated for last August was more serious than previously revealed, according to new reports — indicating the dangerous toll that stress can take on health, says renowned cardiologist Chauncey Crandall, M.D.
"Stress is one of the highest risk factors for heart disease, and there's nothing more stressful than running the world," Dr. Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic, tells Newsmax Health.
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Last August, Bush underwent a stent procedure at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital after a routine physical. The artery blockage was discovered during an examination and he underwent the procedure day. After spending a night in the hospital, Bush quickly went back at his normal routine, and has returned to playing golf and riding mountain bikes.
At the time of Bush's heart procedure, there were no details on whether any symptoms, such as chest pain, had preceded the diagnosis. It was also described as a routine procedure.
But according to a new report in the National Journal
, the condition was potentially life-threatening and far more dangerous than reported. Bush's doctors ordered a CT angiogram, which revealed a serious blockage in one of his coronary arteries.
Although Dr. Crandall has never treated Bush, he does have many high-profile patients in high-stress jobs. "It's been my experience that the level of stress they are under can cause serious heart disease," he says.
Bush's diagnosis last August also seemed surprising considering the former president's active participation in physical fitness and athletic feats, such as leading veterans in the three-day 100-kilometer mountain bike ride.
But while exercise is good for heart health, high levels of stress can undo the good that exercise does.
"Exercise is good for the heart, but it is not as important as improving diet and stress reduction," says Dr. Crandall.
That the former president is enjoying such a return to normalcy is due to the prompt diagnosis and care that he received, notes Dr. Crandall. "The former President’s case shows that, even if you have heart disease, if your heart function is normal, it can be treated, and, with lifestyle change, you can reverse it," he notes.
In order to maintain his newfound health, Bush needs to not only exercise regularly according to his doctor's recommendations, but also make sure he is eating a heart healthy diet and, above all, take steps to reduce his stress level.
"When the body is under stress, hormone changes develop, which is leading to a national epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Stress also impairs the body’s immune system, which is causing more cancer. Also, as a result of stress, more people are developing sleep apnea," he says.
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that hikes high blood pressure and heart attack risk.
"If ordinary people are under such stress today, you can imagine being president and having to deal with the chaos of the world on a day-by-day basis, so it should come as no surprise at all that many of our world leaders develop heart disease," Dr. Crandall adds.
"You don’t have to be a president or world leader to develop health problems due to stress. I see this in all of my patients, no matter what they do for a living. People are stressed over the economy, what the government is doing, about how the changes in healthcare are affecting them, so everyone needs to do whatever they can to help minimize their stress levels," Dr. Crandall says.
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