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Heart 411: The Only Guide to Heart Health You'll Ever Need Paperback – January 31, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Featured Interview: Marc Gillinov and Steven Nissen

Q. What are some of the risk factors of coronary heart disease that we are least likely to know about?

A. Unfortunately most people don't know the simple, basic risk factors--LDL (the "bad" cholesterol), blood pressure, and body mass index (a measure of obesity). Together, these three risk factors plus smoking and diabetes, predict more than 80 percent of the risk for heart disease. We also have a growing list of emerging and sometimes surprising risk factors for heart disease. These include rheumatoid arthritis, sleep apnea, periodontal/gum disease, and even air pollution.

Q. Do 1-2 glasses of wine a day really stave off heart disease?

A. People who drink moderately are less likely to develop coronary artery disease and more likely to live longer than people who abstain from alcohol. This makes biological sense, as alcohol increases HDL cholesterol and reduces blood clotting. The evidence is solid, but we don't have conclusive proof that wine staves off heart disease. Nevertheless, a glass of wine (or a beer or a scotch) a day can be part of a heart healthy lifestyle.

Q. How does stress affect the heart?

A. Today we understand the link between emotional stress and heart attacks. In the patient with coronary artery disease, stress can trigger a heart attack by causing release of hormones and chemicals that increase blood pressure and heart rate and also increase the tendency for blood to clot. Anger is a common heart attack trigger, with up to 3 percent of heart attacks preceded by bouts of intense anger. Managing emotional stress can be life-saving for the patient with coronary artery disease.

Q. Is red meat really that bad for the heart?

A. Red meat contains large quantities of saturated fat, which is linked to increased LDL cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease. An occasional steak or hamburger is fine, but a diet that includes daily consumption of red meat, especially when compared to a diet rich in fish, is associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. If you do eat meat, choose less fatty cuts and limit portion sizes.

Q. Why is this book so important? How is it different than other books on heart disease?

A. This book is about proven strategies to achieve and maintain heart health. Today there is simply too much health information on the Web and on the bookshelves. Some of it is accurate, but much of it is completely wrong. Your heart-health is too important for you to get sucked in by ridiculous fads. You can't afford to make critical mistakes based upon incorrect and confusing information. In this book, we detail the evidence, dispel the myths, and distill the truth. Let us guide you to a life of sustained heart health.

From Booklist

In this empowering, lifesaving primer, cardiac surgeon Gillinov and cardiologist Nissen, who between the two of them have cared for more than 10,000 cardiac patients, authoritatively lay out what Americans must do to lessen their risk of dying of heart disease, the nation’s number-one killer. For starters, don’t get fat, and don’t smoke. But the authors also mix in surprises. For example, they say cold weather can increase the risk of heart attack, while more education can lower it, and too much alcohol can increase the risk of high blood pressure (and breast cancer); and they explain why, medically speaking, husbands should stay faithful. Gillinov and Nissen also cover the warning signs of heart attacks and early symptoms of heart disease. The book is full of interesting asides (for example, in 1900, pneumonia was the leading cause of U.S. deaths, and the average life expectancy was 47), but impatient patients can skip to the end of chapters, which typically end with an “Rx” summary. In sum, an understandable and definitive guide by two top heart docs. --Karen Springen

Product Details

  • Paperback: 550 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; 1 edition (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307719901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307719904
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A researcher by both temperament and profession, I normally run in the other direction from such inflated publisher claims as "the only guide to heart health you'll ever need." After all, knowledge is empowering, and even credible and informed sources often disagree, a reality that generally makes relying on a single source a foolish proposition at best. But in a real sense that claim can justly be made for Drs. Gillinov and Nissen's Heart 411.

Not because of any specific information or advice they offer (although there is a wealth of that, all backed up by the latest scientific findings explained in an engaging and accessible way for the intelligent layman), but rather because Drs. Gillinov and Nissen provide their readers the tools with which to evaluate the myriad health claims that daily clamor for our attention. Can we really "Reverse Heart Disease" or "End [...] Illness" now, as the titles of recent bestsellers assert?

A chapter devoted to evaluating medical evidence (Chapter 9) explains how to interpret and judge the scientific evidence behind the day's health headlines. The qualitative difference between the validity of observational studies and that of randomized controlled trials is thoroughly explained, as well as such concepts as surrogate endpoints (just because a drug is effective at raising HDL, or "good" cholesterol, does not necessarily mean that it saves lives), confounding factors (what else may be responsible for this result?) and causality (an "association" between low vitamin D levels and heart disease does not necessarily mean that vitamin D deficiency causes heart disease.) With this knowledge, the reader can begin to navigate the tricky shoals of medical information with confidence.
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Format: Paperback
Last year I had a brush with heart surgery. I was scheduled to have valve repair and replacement, waited two months, went thru a three days work up prior to the scheduled date, and was asymptomatic throughout all of this. It turned out I had a surgeon that didn't like to open patients and fix things that weren't necessarily broken. I had valve problems that could be managed medically. The surgeon was Dr. Gilinov so when I saw this book I immediately placed an advanced order. I have now read it cover to cover. It is easy to read and certainly is, as the title says, "The only guide to heart health you'll ever need". I recommend it to anyone who has a history of heart problems or has a family history of heart disease, or just wants to be knowledgeable on the subject. Young or old it will guide you. It should greatly reduce your odds of ever having an emergency meeting in OR with Dr. Gilinov or any other heart surgeon. It brings a certain knowledge to the problem, solutions and preventive measures. You will be able to intelligently discuss problems with your primary care physician or cardiologist. It is money well spent and a read that just may save your life or the life of a loved one.
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Heart 411 is a very comprehensive and well written book, but the authors are very wrong on the optimal diet for heart disease.

My qualifications for writing this review are four college degrees, research in many fields, extensive study of experimental design, and a history of three heart attacks, two angioplasties (before stents), and a triple bypass 22 years ago. At that time, I went on the Pritikin/Ornish/Esselstyn diet and have had no problems since. I run 5k races with full exertion and no chest pain.

The authors recommend the Mediterranean Diet and statins. They say: "If you follow our advice, our waiting rooms will empty out, and you just might put us out of business." (p.531). Let's examine the truth of their assertions.

In the Lyon Diet Heart Study (1999), the Mediterranean Diet was compared to the standard American diet. The subjects were patients who had one heart attack. The Mediterranean Diet did better than the standard American diet, but here is the bad news. Nearly one quarter (24%) of those on the Mediterranean Diet had another heart attack or died. Is a 1 in 4 chance of dying or having a second heart attack satisfactory for you? Those are bad odds in my opinion. The Pritikin/Ornish/Esselstyn diet has a success rate of nearly 100% in preventing future cardiac events. Although the Mediterranean diet may slow disease progression, you can actually stop your heart disease on the Pritikin/Ornish/Esselstyn diet.

Do statins reliably stop heart disease? On page 53, the authors celebrate the, Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study, the 4S Study (1994), calling the study "proof" of the effectiveness of the statin and the results "stunning". They cite the dramatic reduction in the relative risk of those taking the statin.
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10 Comments 88 of 108 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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I saw this book's authors (Gillinov and Nissen) interviewed on Tavis Smiley's show and was so impressed with their approach that I bought it the next day. At 500+ pages it may seem like a bit of a slog, but it is well worth it. The book has enough medical information to make their points without becoming a medical journal. They support or debunk myths with facts; and when the facts are insufficient, they tell you so, and give you their best judgment based on the current data available. They don't hesitate to call out names of firms or products which are deliberately misleading, but they don't dwell on throwing them under the bus either.
As they say in the book: "...many of our colleagues claim that there are two types of people in the world - people who have coronary heart disease and people who are going to get it."

This book is aimed at helping both types of people - I highly recommend it.
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