For your heart’s
sake, get fit
surgeon James W. Long Jr. directs the Utah Artificial Heart
Program in Salt Lake City and leads a team that is developing
a revolutionary artificial heart pump. The following conversation
is adapted from a recent interview Associate Editor Kirk Noonan
had with Long and an article Long wrote.
PE: Tell me
about your work as a heart surgeon and researcher.
My work focuses on combating death and disability due to heart
disease with the most advanced therapies and technologies
available. It includes fundamental approaches to preventing
heart disease by providing my patients with knowledge, inspiration,
and motivation to change their lifestyles.
PE: How serious
of a threat is heart disease in the United States?
Cardiovascular disease is America’s No. 1 killer, but
it is amenable to prevention. We need to understand the factors
that contribute to coronary artery atherosclerosis, the most
prevalent yet most preventable form of heart disease.
PE: What are
those risk factors?
Inherited predisposition, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes,
high or abnormal cholesterol and obesity. At least 60 percent
of people in the United States are well over their ideal body
weight. Over the last several decades the problem of being
overweight has worsened by 20 to 25 percent. Being overweight
raises the risk of developing heart disease by two to four
times. Other conditions made worse by obesity include high
blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, cholesterol abnormalities,
gall bladder disease, arthritis, respiratory problems, sleep
disorders and several types of cancer.
PE: What can
a person do to become and stay healthy?
There is no time like the present to take control of your
health. First, learn as much as you can about health risks
and how to prevent sickness and disease by reading and by
consulting your physician. Second, get motivated to make the
necessary lifestyle changes to be healthy. Third, put that
newly obtained knowledge and sense of motivation into action
and start working toward a healthy life.
PE: If a person
is overweight, what is a good first step to better health?
Lose weight. One needs to reduce his or her caloric intake
by 500 to 1,000 calories per day. This should be an integral
part of any program aimed at achieving a weight loss of one
to two pounds per week.
One should also
exercise to the point of comfortable fatigue three to five
times a week. This means some sweating and hard breathing
over 20 to 30 minutes of exercise. But before a person undertakes
any drastic changes in their lifestyle they should consult
PE: You have
a busy, time-consuming and stressful career — what steps
do you take to stay healthy?
I do most of my transplants in the middle of the night, so
my work will go literally around the clock. I have to regiment
myself to find the block of time to exercise. I improvise
by taking the stairs rather than the elevator, and whenever
possible I break away long enough to work out in the fitness
center. I also try to watch what I eat.
for me to do this, even though it is done in an irregular
and unpredictable way, are the people I operate on who are
PE: What is
your greatest passion?
My passions are my wife and sons, helping others by using
my God-given abilities, and attacking the problem of heart
of passion, can a person’s passion contribute positively
to their overall health?
People who have a strong desire to be productive and reach
out beyond themselves and help others have exuberance for
life that those who have no passion lack. Those who are passionate
about something manage to have their spirit and mind driven
and their body just seems to follow. Taking care of your body
is the linkage between passion and health.
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