The media fraternity of USA lies shocked with the news of the sudden death of Tim Russert, NBC’s beloved correspondent, the longest-serving moderator of “Meet The Press” and host of the self titled CNBC’s weekend interview show “Tim Russert”.
Russert collapsed in NBC’s Washington D.C. studio on Friday, June 13, 2008 while taping the voiceovers for “Meet The Press”. He was rushed to Sibley Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later due to a sudden heart attack caused by an acute thrombosis (blood clot) which rapidly occluded a major coronary artery.
Mr. Russert was known to have asymptomatic coronary artery disease (CAD), as well as obesity and diabetes. He was receiving medical treatment for his CAD, but had a negative stress test recently on April 29, which makes his sudden death a rattling shock to the nation.
An obvious question, one that is being asked by several television commentators since Friday, is: how could he have had a heart attack when his stress test was normal so recently?
The sad fact is that the majority of acute heart attacks are associated with "non-significant" plaques. These plaques may suddenly rupture, which quickly leads to the formation of a blood clot. The blood clot acutely occludes the coronary artery, causing a heart attack.
Sudden cardiac arrest accounts for 310,000 deaths in America every year, or 850 a day, a fatal number greater than the deaths caused by breast cancer, lung cancer, stroke, and AIDS combined. Despite how common the condition is, doctors know little about what predisposes one person to it and not another.
A sudden cardiac arrest is, of course, unexpected, but the process that causes it may begin many years before. "In middle-aged men, it's virtually always caused by degeneration in the wall of a coronary artery," says Dr. Thomas Risser, a cardiologist at Cambridge Health Alliance.
Doctors do know that a previous history of heart attacks is the most important risk factor. Vice President Dick Cheney, who has suffered four heart attacks, wears a pacemaker to ward off sudden arrest. Age and gender also play roles, and as a 58-year-old male, Russert was in high-risk groups.
The average age for suffering sudden cardiac death is between 58 and 62. Other factors involved in all forms of cardiovascular disease, family history, smoking, diabetes, and obesity can come into play. Russert had some of these too. His autopsy on Friday showed an enlarged heart. The doctors do not know which of these factors played a crucial role in causing a sudden heart attack, or why. They also do not know if stress plays a role at all.
What is clear is that there are ways to lower one's risk of sudden cardiac death such as eating healthy, exercising, not smoking and taking aspirins. The trouble, though, is that patients often don't think they're at serious risk until they are actually experiencing an attack. In about a third of all sudden deaths due to coronary disease, death is the first sign that anything major is wrong. Russert himself was exercising and taking medication for his coronary artery disease, which was asymptomatic.
Bottom line, US lost one of its most cherished journalists to CAD. Tim Russert will be missed greatly, especially before election day when he was expected to give several stiff doses of himself to both the democratic candidate Mr. Obama and the republic candidate Mr. McCain.