Following placement of two stents in a coronary artery, Bill Cinton's health has been the focus of major media concern. Unfortunately, this concern nearly 100 percent misidentifies what is hurting Clinton's health.
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, February 12, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
Misidentifying Clinton's Risk Factors
Commenting on Bill Clinton's recurrence of coronary heart disease, every TV commentator I heard misidentified his major risk factors.
Most often mentioned was Clinton's diet. But Clinton has significantly modified what he eats - and lost considerable weight - since leaving the presidency, and especially after his 2004 quadruple bypass surgery.
Second, people discussed his need to get his cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure under control. But I'm positive Clinton is well stocked with statin and other appropriate medications. And I would guess he takes them regularly - and that he has people who remind him should he forget.
Third, people spoke about how men are slow to identify that they are in pain and suffering cardiac stress. I think Clinton is highly attuned to such episodes, and has almost instant access to the best medical care when he detects any worrying signs.
Fourth, the commentators noted Clinton's high stress level. He has been tremendously active around the world in aid programs - most recently flying back and forth to Haiti. While no one should regularly work to exhaustion, I don't see Clinton doing this.
Fifth, pundits (such as Chris Matthews) discussed Clinton's competitiveness and unwillingness to take a back seat, his urge always to be the center of attention, to want everyone, everywhere to love him, and his never letting up in pursuing approval.
Actually, working energetically on motivating projects in cooperation with other people and seeking their support and esteem are positive predictors of heart health and longevity.
So what might be contributing to the president's problems - in addition to a possible genetic predisposition to heart disease and that he already suffers from the condition?
Commentators are too polite and respectful of the ex-president to discuss the most damaging part of his Type-A personality. No, not his competitiveness and intensity. It is his proneness to become bitter and angry. Clinton has legendary outbursts towards enemies, people he feels have betrayed him, and simple screw-ups that occur during campaigns.
The former president is also quick to feel his reputation and legacy are being slighted. For example, Clinton was deeply offended when Barack Obama said, "I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Bill Clinton did not." And Clinton took it personally when key Democrats (like Ted Kennedy) backed Obama - and when Hillary didn't gain the Democratic nomination to be president.
Oh, the next most important risk factor is Clinton's probable near abstinence - as a Southern Baptist, over 90 percent of whom don't drink - from alcohol. Regular sensible drinking is an important behavioral factor for preventing heart disease, along with not smoking, weight control, and exercise - which of course everyone should do. But no one is allowed to know this in America - because it seems so wrong to us.
This analysis is based on generic psychological and medical projections and newspaper, magazine, and book accounts of the former President - Bill, don't follow my recommendations without consulting your doctor and therapist!