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Articles by Dr. Potthoff

Please Don't End Up Like My Friend!

My friend Tom (not his real name) had a hemorrhagic stroke last Friday morning.  His wife called me and told me he woke up with a headache, and had a bit of confusion, then went back to bed.  The three of us chalked it up to overindulgence, which was not unusual for him.  As the day progressed the headache worsened and eventually he was taken by ambulance to Kaiser in Oakland.  They did a CAT scan and located a bleed in the subarachnoid area (meninges) of his brain and into a ventricle.  He was intubated and transferred by ambulance to Redwood City Neuro Center. He then had surgery to bore a hole into the top of his head and insert a thin tube to remove excess cerebrospinal fluid.  I visited on Sunday and found that he was sometimes confused, not knowing the month, or date and eventually thinking his parents were still alive (they died a few years ago).  He has no other neurological deficit:  he can raise his arms overhead, walk and has no facial paralysis - all great signs.  But he is producing too much cerebrospinal fluid.  All in all he experienced the best possible type of hemorrhagic stroke.


Tom is a vital man.  He is retired, but does a lot of computer work for a local community chorus.  He does metal sculpture and he walks the dog.  But he has high blood pressure, which he ignored.  He also drinks too much, does little exercise, and doesn’t always make the best food choices.  Worse yet, he doesn’t have any stress management tools that he uses on a regular basis and generally poo-poos any thought of learning and/or using them.

So what is the difference between you and Tom? Do you have high blood pressure?  Is it controlled?  Do you drink too much, fail to exercise, make poor food choices?  Do you have stress management techniques that you use?  Believe me, you are cruising for a heart attack or stroke, if you continue in a manner similar to Tom’s.  

Another good friend of mine had a heart attack two years ago.  He had high blood pressure, a long time history of smoking, didn’t eat well or exercise.  For some reason he was surprised when he had a heart attack, even after having chest pains for quite some time.  He now eats a bit better, still doesn’t exercise, or do any stress management.  At least his blood pressure is controlled by medication.


One of my neighbors, who I often see out walking, told me his story one day. He said he had a heart attack when he was 42 or so.  He didn’t pay much attention, made no changes, and had a second heart attack a few years later.  At that point he paid attention and started walking.  I often saw him and his wife out walking together and enjoying life.  He is now in his early 80’s.  

Please wake up!!!  There is a reason why heart disease and stroke (cardiovascular  disease) is the number one killer in the US.  Our collective lifestyle leads directly to having a heart attack or stroke.  Statins really don’t protect you.  They also can cause muscle pain, problems with blood sugar and occasional liver damage.  Further, they deplete Co-enzyme Q10, which is necessary for good heart function (along with magnesium and potassium).  

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