Sunday, May 27, 2012

Where Would You Celebrate The Life Of Someone Who Died Of A Massive Heart Attack?

Occasionally, I can't help but comment on something from the obituary page.  If I think my comments in any way could add to the family's immediate grief, I'll wait a month or more before posting. If anyone reading this knows the deceased, my condolences go out to you.  This is not meant to be any disrespect to you or the deceased, but rather to raise some health issues of importance to everyone. 

Here's part of an obituary I saw a while ago. 
[Someone] passed away in Anchorage on [Month day], 2012, surrounded by his loving wife and sons after suffering a massive heart attack. .  .
It goes on to describe someone I think I'd have liked to meet.  And then . . .

A Celebration of Life will be held at ********* Steakhouse in Anchorage.
Seriously.  The guy died of "a massive heart attack"  and they are having the celebration of life at the steakhouse.  I'm guessing they chose it because it was a favorite restaurant.  But to me it seems like inviting the murderer to the funeral.  Or pushing more family members to the edge of the same cliff. 

 How long should he have lived?

The man was born in 1942 but it didn't say the date, so he would have been 69 or 70 when he died.  As the excerpts below show, life expectancy increases as you get older - as you survive childhood and teen risks.  Someone 65 today, according to this source, should live to 83.  So, presumably, enjoying steak maybe cost him 13 years.   Maybe it was worth it to him.

Life expectancy is the average life span for an individual. Life expectancy figures are collected by national health systems and by projecting current mortality statistics. Life expectancy is generally given for a person born this year. For example, according to the CDC, anyone born in 2006 could expect to live about 77.5 years. But this is tricky, because life expectancy changes based on age and gender.

Life Expectancy at Birth:

The life expectancies that you usually read about are life expectancies at birth. The current U.S. life expectancy is 77.5 years. This number takes the current rates of mortality at each age and figures out where the average is. Deaths at young ages impact life expectancy averages much more than older deaths. If a person dies at 18, that is 59.5 years lost. A person dying at age 70 only loses 7.5 years. Young deaths impact life expectancy at birth statistics. If you can reduce your risk to some of the most common causes of death of young people, such as car accidents, you can significantly beat this number.

Life Expectancy at 65:

As people age, their life expectancy actually increases. Each year you live means that you have survived all sorts of potential causes of death. If you were born in 1942, your life expectancy at birth was about 68 years. But the good news is that you didn't die of infectious diseases when young, car accidents, or anything else. The average 65-year-old today can expect to live another 18.4 years. So your life expectancy now is not the same as it was at your birth. It is 5.9 years longer than the current life expectancy figure (which is for people born in 2006) or 83.4 years. [Emphasis added.]

Is there a link between steak and heart attack?

The Wall Street Journal writes about a 2010 Harvard meta analysis on the relationship between steaks and heart attacks:
Maybe that juicy steak you ordered isn't a heart-attack-on-a-plate after all.
A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that the heart risk long associated with red meat comes mostly from processed varieties such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and cold cuts—and not from steak, hamburgers and other non-processed cuts. . .
. . .  Based on information about meat products sold in the U.S., levels of saturated fats are similar in processed and unprocessed meats, while steak and other red meats have on average slightly higher levels of cholesterol, the researchers found. But sodium levels average about 622 milligrams per two-ounce serving of processed meat, about four times the 155 milligrams found in steak, hamburger or pork. Other preservatives, called nitrites, were also higher in the processed meats. In some studies, nitrates have been shown to interfere with the health of blood vessels and the body's ability to process glucose.
None of this suggests that steak is a new health food. While red meat wasn't linked to an increased risk of heart disease in the study, it didn't lower it either. Other research suggests frequent red meat consumption is associated with increased risk of colon cancer. The new report didn't look at cancer effects.
"Should people eat more red meat because of this analysis?" asked Robert Eckel, a cardiologist and nutrition expert at University of Colorado, Denver. "I don't think that is what the study is saying."
That's not necessarily a license to unleash your inner carnivore. Calorie control as well as a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains and nuts remain the mainstay of heart-healthy eating, he said.
"If once in a while somebody wants to eat meat, our study suggests steak or other unprocessed cuts aren't going to increase their heart risk," he said.
 [emphasis added]
But a report in the Telegraph on a Harvard School of Medicine (not Public Health) study suggests that maybe comparing red meat to processed meats isn't the test.  It also concludes cutting back (but not necessarily out)  is the answer.
Small quantities of processed meat such as bacon, sausages or salami can increase the likelihood of dying early by a fifth, researchers from Harvard School of Medicine found. Eating steak increases the risk of early death by 12%.
The study found that cutting the amount of red meat in peoples’ diets to 1.5 ounces (42 grams) a day, equivalent to one large steak a week, could prevent almost one in 10 early deaths in men and one in 13 in women.


  1. I have learned that most people have a real blind spot about the food relationship to health. They really resist the idea that you are what you eat. I was at a funeral once where there was a display of all the things the deceased, a heart attack victim, loved. There was a 2lb bag of M&Ms, a pound of bacon, an ice cream carton, his pipe and tobacco, a can of pork and beans, etc. I mentioned to my sister in law that this looked more like an evidence display than a memorial display and she had no idea what I was talking about.

  2. People just don't want to think that any of the crap they eat will affect THEM. It's always the other guy. They also think that the Dr will save them or the pill will. As a nation we are mostly fat, unhealthy and uninformed (and sick). @Olivia, I love your comment"an evidence display" Totally get what you meant.

  3. Been a vegetarian since I was 10, but at this point the Fukushima fallout is going to kill us more thant the food.the gubmints aren't leeting us know what's going on w that so we don't all freak out w that.

  4. On the other hand, Steve...

    I was watching British Film Institute documentary compilations this past week -- great shorts from the 30s-50s on British labour and life. In those films, I saw evidence of how fit the men were in their work - women were largely at home - whether in the fields or in the shipyards.

    Thing is, those same occupations killed men as safety precautions were not first thought. If one goes back to the advent of the industrial age, the sheer mayhem of mass movement of the newly unemployed from farm to factory life spelled death in malnutrition and disease. We forget today that many children died in their childhood and nineteenth-century cemeteries are mute proof.

    So, today's industrialised world is rife with pot-bellies rather than muscle? We are also surviving in far too great numbers to be sustainable on this planet. 

I hate to admit it, but death is nature's way of moving us along, of making way for the new. We have so terribly disrupted the natural cycle of our own, previously shorter lives that it isn't deluded to worry for our species' future given its reproduction success and environmental manipulation.

    The steakhouse was a choice in this story, albeit not a good one for one person's longer life. However, it was likely a good choice for living life to excess and moving one person on a bit earlier.

    I can mourn the person here, but I fear for humankind.


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