Russert's Death Grim Reminder of Heart Risks

Sudden cardiac incidents difficult to prevent, survive
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2008 12:10 PM CDT
Tim Russert waves during the Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate at the Cashman Center in Las Vegas, Nevada in this Jan. 15, 2008 file photo.   (AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – The heart attack that claimed Tim Russert’s life yesterday was a textbook example of a one of modern medicine's blind spots. Roughly 300,000 Americans die of unexpected, out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year, the Wall Street Journal reports. Doctors can predict the likelihood of an incident happening in the next 10 years, but they can’t tell if a patient is in imminent danger.  

Russert knew he was at risk, and was undergoing treatment. As recently as April, he had a positive exercise stress test, but that means little, one cardiologist said: “You can still have plaque and be at risk.” It’s unclear if Russert was taking cholesterol-lowering statins, but even those aren’t reliable, the cardiologist said. “We have to look for other means.”