Rethinking Healthcare

Michael's heart and Barack's ciggie butt

Michael's heart and Barack's ciggie butt

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By combining heavy exercise with light smoking, the President may be fooling himself into thinking he's getting the best of both worlds. But he's really getting what Jackson sought, a temporary release into a youthful feeling that raises the risk of sudden death.

The death of Michael Jackson is another reminder of how sudden heart attack can strike those of us in middle-age and the lengths we often go to hide the process behind it.

(Image of Michael Jackson from CBS, via CNET TV.)

It happens often to people in their 50s. Here is a case in my hometown of Atlanta. Here is a case from last year.

I'm 54, and have been on medication for potential heart problems since 2000. My dad had his first heart attack at 47. My cholesterol count before medication was over 350. Both my parents had high blood pressure and now I do too. My mom still does. Dad passed in 1999.

On most hypertension medicines I have taken there's a cycle to the day, a mid-day exhaustion, that exercise can fight but not eliminate. It's aggravating, even agonizing. When in its grip coffee puts me to sleep.

What does this have to do with the President's smoking habit?

On my recent trip to China I lived in a haze of second-hand smoke, and was reminded again of side-effects that can appear to be attractive.

I felt both energized and relaxed. I could get through a day without tiring. I even had trouble sleeping at night, yet I seemed to wake up refreshed.

I smelled the air less-and-less as time went on, and my taste buds could stand the burn of Sichuan hot pot, even when my hosts offered ingredients like tripe, heart, and duck's blood, all designed to raise my western "ick" factor.

It has taken me nearly three weeks to get over the effects of everyone smoking around me, and meanwhile I have paid for the "high" with exhaustion and irritability.

By combining heavy exercise with light smoking, the President may be fooling himself into thinking he's getting the best of both worlds. But he's really getting what Jackson sought, a temporary release into a youthful feeling that raises the risk of sudden death.

He really does need to quit.  Biden won't blow up the world if he naps.

Aging is a bitch. It has no cure. So far it has proven itself to be 100% fatal. We all have a choice to deal with it or hide from it. And hiding feels good. But hiding, however we do it, has that price and that risk.

It would do wonders for our health care debate, and the price we pay for health care, if both doctors and patients could be honest about this. I'll think about it more after I wake up...

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure