Russert's 'Silent' Heart Problem Common in U.S.

Dr. C. Noel Bairey Merz, of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, agrees. "Clinical trials also show that the lifestyle regimen is about half, so taking pills alone is not optimal," says Merz.

However, while doctors can point to what should have been done, Russert's death upset even seasoned physicians.

"It makes us all feel mortal and it also highlights the natural history of this silent killer and our limited ability as physicians to catch this culprit before it strikes," says Dr. Robert Michler, Surgeon in Chief at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York, N.Y.

Michler adds that the ruptured plaque which killed Russert can occur in patients who only have moderately blocked blood vessels.

"The truth is that this story is a recurring daily event, striking people in their prime and without warning," says Michler.

Joseph Brownstein contributed to this report.

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