As many of you may know, the actor Michael Clarke Duncan passed away on the morning of September 3, 2012 secondary to complications of a heart attack he suffered on July 13, 2012. He was 54. We send our condolences and prayers to his family during this difficult time. I don’t know any more of the details of his medical history than anyone else and while trying to gather more information, all I came up with is what I wrote in the first sentence. Some of our followers know that the three of us at Theintellution are all medical professionals. As young physicians, myself (Internal Medicine), Supreme Soul (Family Medicine), and The Audacity of Dope! (Psychiatry) pride ourselves in providing the best care for all of our patients and a major part of that care involves education.
Some people may be wondering how did Michael Clarke Duncan have a heart attack? He was a well known vegetarian since 2009 and appeared to be in well enough physical shape. I can’t answer that question because I don’t know his personal or family medical history and if I did, I still wouldn’t be able to answer it because of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. What I can do is talk about the risks associated with heart attacks (also known as myocardial infarctions to healthcare workers). As noted in the video above, his decision to become vegetarian hinged on the fact that he ate a lot of meat and had a lot of illnesses. This is great that he took the time to assess his lifestyle and make appropriate changes, however I fear that given his medical history and eating habits ($5000 worth of meat is a lot of food), the damage to his coronary arteries (vessels providing blood to the heart) may have already been done. I’m also pretty sure that he had a significant family medical history for heart disease as many African Americans do given our increased risk for heart disease as a race. As I stated before, I can only speculate based on the information that is available on the internet, but I do want to use this to inform our readers.
What can you do? Not just for yourself, but for family members as well. It all starts with knowing your risk of cardiovascular disease which can be broken down into non-modifiable and behavioral risk factors. Non-modifiable risk factors refer to those factors that we cannot change such as gender (risk in males > women), age, race, and family history of cardiovascular disease. Behavioral factors are those that we can change and include; sedentary lifestyle, diet, heavy alcohol consumption, and smoking. Then there are physiological risk factors which stem from a combination of non-modifiable and behavioral risk factors and include high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. What does this mean for you and your family? It means taking the initiative and limiting or controlling your behavioral and/or physiological risk factors before it is too late, although it really is never too late to start a healthy lifestyle. Does this mean you have to become a vegetarian? Absolutely not. It means that you have to watch how much red meat you eat, increase the amount of vegetables/fruit, and drink more water. Diet sodas mean absolutely nothing, especially if you drink one with a super sized value meal. Does this mean you have to work out 3 hours every day to look like the emaciated or cartoonishly muscular media portrayals of women and men, respectively? Again, absolutely not. Thirty minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise for 4-5 days a week should suffice.
If you already are diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, or if you already had a heart attack (or multiple) doesn’t mean you can’t live a fulfilling life. I have had numerous patients start to live healthy AFTER they had a heart attack and they look great. It’s unfortunate that they had the heart attack in the first place, but they were blessed enough to survive and learned from their previous unhealthy living habits. We doctors are NOT God (regardless of what some would have you to believe) and we can only do so much. As I tell all my patients, “I can help you but I can’t force you to change. I am going to provide you with the utmost care but I guarantee you will get more out of it if you do your part.”
So good people of Theintellution, start taking control of your life. Tell your loved ones to start taking control of their lives. It’s not going to be easy, but anything worth having isn’t and I’d like to believe that life is pretty damn worth it.
R.I.P. Michael Clarke Duncan. We lost a great actor.
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