Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Retrospective #318: The Mystery of Antonin Scalia’s Sudden 2016 Death

The headline in the LA Times/AP story: “Scalia's death probably linked to obesity, diabetes and coronary artery disease, physician says.” The lede in the story was, “Antonin Scalia suffered from coronary artery disease, obesity and diabetes, among other ailments that probably contributed to the justice's sudden death, according to a letter from the Supreme Court's doctor. He said the long list of health problems made an autopsy unnecessary.”
According to a letter from his attending physician, “significant medical conditions led to his death.” The AP said that the letter “listed more than a half-dozen ailments, including sleep apnea, degenerative joint disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and high blood pressure. Scalia was also a smoker, the letter said.” That’s quite a list. So mainstream medicine comfortably reached a consensus that he was a very sick guy.
Antonin Scalia died peacefully and suddenly in his sleep at age 79. Given his multiple medical conditions, that was neither a surprising nor a premature outcome. But it didn’t have to be. He might have been expected to live well into his 80s or even longer. Given his multiple conditions, however, it is in fact somewhat surprising that he lived as long as he did. It’s a credit to modern medicine and to the medical care he received.
I have neither a prurient interest in this man’s cause of death, nor do I support a conspiracy theory…here. Rather, I wish to use Scalia’s death to emphasize, as Jenny Ruhl points out, with more than a dozen links, in Blood Sugar 101,” “Heart attack risk more than doubles at blood sugar levels considered to be ‘PREDIABETIC.’”
As the LA Times headline shouts, blood sugar levels and obesity and cardiovascular risk are all related; and the risk of heart attack, or a fatal heart arrhythmia (the probable cause of Scalia’s death), can be reduced by losing weight and controlling blood sugar levels…as I have said here ad nauseam. More easily said than done, you say?
Well, consider this related Associated Press story, filed by David Warren in Dallas, TX, that included an interview with a physician of internal and emergency medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He said, “The justice's many ailments, taken together, were ‘quite dangerous,’” and “he would advise a patient with those conditions who was still smoking to stop smoking first and then lose weight.” Okay, that’s fair, and very good advice, but so facile.
“Those are the main two things someone in his position can do himself,” the doctor said, without suggesting how to lose weight. He knew full well that most patients WHO FOLLOW MEDICAL ADVICE on how to lose weight will fail, but that’s on the patient. (The doctor simply notes in the patient’s medical record, “patient non-compliant.) “The rest falls on the physician,” he said, “to medically manage blood pressure and make sure their blood sugar levels are controlled well.” But all of these things are related, and all of them are things someone can do him/herself. The effect on the body is synergistic. And the catalyst that gets them all to work together is, ta dah, a Very Low Carbohydrate diet.
The body can heal itself, can achieve homeostasis at a new, much lower set point: a “happy,” balanced, healthy body. As you eat Very Low Carb, 1) you lose weight (without hunger), 2) your blood sugar levels and your bloods lipids (cholesterol) improve; and 3) as you lose weight, your blood pressure improves and your cardiovascular risk declines. You feel good. You’re not hungry all the time. You’re not lethargic or sleepy after a meal. You have lots of energy.
You don’t need to rely on your doctor to over medicate you for blood sugar control or even blood pressure. (I still take blood pressure meds, but after a large weight loss my BP went from 130/90 to 110/70 on fewer meds.) And after eating Very Low Carb consistently, my HDL-C doubled and my triglycerides dropped by two-thirds; and my doctor took me off the statin he had prescribed five years earlier. And all those oral meds for type 2 diabetes? Within days of starting to eat Very Low Carb, I had to give them all up (except a minimum dose of Metformin) to avoid hypos!
Of course, after living a relatively long life, dying suddenly and peacefully in your sleep isn’t such a bad way to go.

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