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How to avoid a heart attack by drinking and smoking PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rob Guerriere   
Sep 04, 2008 at 07:32 PM

The Roseto EffectTuesdays with Asher is a lot like Monday through Friday with my neighbor and drinking buddy.   Both of us retired from the rat race early in life and get together quite frequently (daily) to philosophize about the meaning of life to more specific topics like economics, stress, food, sex, and health.   Yesterday, I started off with how my family, friends, and direct acquaintances, have no time for themselves.  They work long hours and are consumed with family and daily chores.   They are running and executing at work and don't have time to think outside of what needs to be done today/week/month.  Then at the end of the day, when they need to decompress before bed, they watch the boob tube.  They don't own their time that is passing them by. 

Asher then chimed in on something that he could not get off his mind.  Our employed neighbor and drinking buddy Bob, was a bit quiet and reserved at our Sunday Labor Day picnic.  Bob is recovering from a mild heart attack a month ago.  He owns a successful technology company, is a college professor and volunteer firefighter at 53 years young.  He is a recent empty nester, with three kids getting advanced science degrees from prestigious universities.   Bob is a great guy with a positive attitude who would do anything from just about anyone and always has a good story on hand.  Unfortunately, his family has a high cholesterol problem. Tuesdays with Asher

Bob is not his jovial self.   His wife Carol said, "He doesn't even run around the house naked anymore", an activity that he enjoyed when the youngest left for college.  More recently, Bob cut out his chewing tobacco, drinking and eating meat in an effort to live a longer healthier life. 

Contemplating Bob's health issues got me thinking of a 1967 report in Time Life magazine, from the American Journal of Medical Science, on "The Roseto Effect".

The Roseto Effect has to do with a town of Roseto, in northeast Pennsylvania, which in the early 60's was realized for a statistical anomaly; low heart disease.  Scientist swooned in, like a scene from the movie "Outbreak", and began to study everything from death certificates, to diets, to neighboring towns.  Roseto was a close-knit town of Italian-Americans who were laborers in the area slate quarries, blouse mills and Bethlehem Steel.   But how were they avoiding heart disease?  Was it the red pasta sauce?  The garlic and olive oil?  The red wine?  What was it?  The scientist's concluded it was due to limited stress through family and a tight social environment. 

Just this past July, I was standing in long line for a Pizza Fritta, a sugary ball of fried dough, at the annual Roseto festival called ‘The Big Time'.  I spend a half hour talking with a Roseto resident who happened to be the girl serving the pasta in the Time Life 1967 photograph.  So I asked her, "What's the true story?"

She concurred, "Its stress".  Back in the 1960's, every resident fit into Roseto like a jig-saw puzzle.  Everyone knew their place.  The Italians had large families, with three generations living under one roof.  They had a strong family, community and church ties.  They had a structured weekly routine.  They even knew what was for dinner by the day of the week.  They also smoked heavy cigars, drank prodigious amounts of wine and ate cooked sausage in lard.   But the men retired at an early age (40) having made good money, living modestly and with the understanding that their 10 working children would take care of them.  They had a stable, stress free life with limited variability.   And that is why there was limited heart disease in 1960's Roseto.

Limiting stress and having a tight-knit group of family and community, of "People nourishing people", has a greater affect on battling heart disease than lowering your cholesterol and quitting smoking.  That was the conclusion of the study.  I included links to additional interesting reading on the subject and reference to the study itself below.

So how can Bob, my family and friends, or I, reduce stress and live in a stable heart attack free environment?  I think of my grandmother Julia, who always told me to "live modestly, don't buy things that you don't need, and never count on money that is not in the mattress".

While writing this, I got a call from my good friend Tamer.  He said that he works endless hours and takes on high risk investments to offer a better life for his children.

What do you mean when you say you want a better life for your children?  What is a better life?  To work long hours to pay for a big house and all the expenses that go with it?  To save for a retirement, healthcare and pay for your kids education?  To go through life without any time to contemplate ‘what is life'? 

How about moving into a half a double with a yard big enough for a garden and move your parents in with you, sell their home, take all of your assets and put them into your children's accounts.  Set the understanding with your kids now that they are responsible for your well-being and retire at 40-50.  Don't worry about health insurance, when it's your time to go, you go.  Only invest in fixed income stable accounts.  If you need more income, take on a part-time, stress free job, like grinding tree stumps or making furniture or wine.  Work the large garden to can fruits and vegetables for the winter.  Leave the worry about college and further education with your children, it will teach them the value of the dollar at a young age.  Whatever your religion or school of thought, one should have faith in a higher being.  No one can tell you otherwise so be an optimist and have faith.  Be active in the community to be of value to someone.  Get rid of your TV and all video games and buy a goat to milk.  And finally, find some time to stop by to debate the meaning of life with Asher and me.

Don't hesitate to add your thoughts below.

How to avoid a heart attack by drinking and smoking

Additional Reading on "The Roseto Effect" at the following links:



Stout C, Morrow J, Brandt EN, Wolf S.
Study of an Italian-American community in
PA; unsualy low incidence of death from
myocardial infarction.JAMA. 1964;188:845.

Bruhn JG, Wolf S. 77Ie Roseto Story An
Anatony ofHealth. Norman, Okla: University
of Oklahoma Press; 1979.

Bruhn JG, Chandler B, Miller C, Wolf S.
Social aspects of coronary heart disease in
two adjacent ethnically different communities.
Am J Public Health. 1966;56:1493-1506.

Lynn TN, Duncan R, Naughton J, et al.
Prevalence ofevidence of prior myocardial
infarction, hypertension, diabetes and obesity
in three neighboring communities in
Pennsylvania. Am J Med Sci 1967;254:385-391.

Bruhn JG, Phillips B, Wolf S. Social readjustment
and illness pattems. Comparison between
first, second and third generation
Italian-Americans living in the same
community. J Psychosom Med. 1972;16:387-394.

Kiritz S, Moos RH. Review article: physiological
effects of social environments.
Psychosom Med. 1974;36:96-114.

User Comments

Comment by michele on 2008-09-06 19:58:45
I found the article very interesting. Where do you get all of the information? As for Bob's condition, his is heredity. Asher and I were over to his friends house and his wife's cholestrol count is very high. The only thing with her is that she never knew who her parents were. She has no knowledge of any health issues. As for stress, the world puts too much pressure on people. Everyone seems to be in a big hurry to get things done faster or to get somewhere faster. Try driving down Lower South Main Street. Or anywhere for that matter. There always has to be a shortcut for everything without thinking of consequences. Just like life. We need to slow down and enjoy because you never know what you have could be gone. I guess everyone handles stress differently. Beer and smokes for some, maybe just enjoying quiet time, if you can get some. Things today are totally different from back in the day with our folks and grandparents. But the one thing I think still remains is that most dedicated people are very hard workers. That again can add to stress. I use to hold alot of things inside of me and then I would explode at any given moment. Not no more. I address a problem when it arises, or I seem to think I do. Enjoy life now because the armor truck won't follow me to my grave!

Comment by on 2008-09-09 14:53:59

Comment by emax1029 on 2009-03-04 14:29:38
Knowing you have a Yuengling with friends waiting for you every so often is what the doctor ordered.  
'No one to be with and nothing to look forward to' is a big cause for situational depression....so they say!

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