Heart Attack and Stroke on the Menu at the Heart Attack Cafe

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Food and Nutrition
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Most of you probably enjoy a good joke as much as the next guy. You know, every profession banters and teases to deal with the stress, and lend a little levity to the situation. And medicine is no different. Of course, cardiology is no laughing matter; it is fraught with the stress of resuscitations, emergency situations, near death experiences, and complex decision-making. But being able to laugh at ourselves is a great stress reliever that may even loosen us up about some aspects of our personality that we bring to any situation.
 
I recall entering the waiting room of a psychotherapist colleague many years ago, where a homemade coffee table book caught my eye. It contained varying jokes about seeking psychiatric help and related topics had been cut and pasted from magazines like the Reader’s Digest, and left there for patients to read.

At first it seemed odd. But as I flipped the pages and enjoyed the parodies and the satire, it struck me as actually so appropriate. To be able to laugh at a situation we find ourselves in always makes it a little easier to deal with.

I borrowed this great idea and blew up a cartoon I had found in Gary Larson’s Far Side, one of my favorite cartoon columns. I fit it in one of those 8x10 plastic box-style frames and hung it on the wall in front of cardiac rehab treadmills. There, sketched in black and white, was a nurse cranking up a treadmill on some poor struggling person with a sadistic smile on her face. Then, I waited to see what would happen.

The patients were in stitches and insisted that we make the nurse a nametag with my name on it, a request that I quickly followed through on. We had a ball with that cartoon. Laughter is such good medicine! And I loved listening to them chuckle their way through the drudgery of indoor treadmill walking and medically supervised exercise, and add their own witty commentaries.

Before you know it, patients who’d endured heart attacks and strokes and open heart surgeries were cutting out and bringing in cartoons of their own to be sized,  framed, and hung around the exercise room, too. There were jokes about surgery, doctors, nurses, exercise, poor lifestyle choices, healthy diets—all kinds of related things!

I revisited that great memory a couple of weeks ago when a colleague at Healthy Directions forwarded an email about a “coronary café” in Arizona called the “Heart Attack Grill.” It is a creative marketing schema, and certainly offers a Larsonesque edge.

First off, I have to tell you that their onsite “doctor” is not recognized by the AMA. Also, those rehab patients of mine would have lots to say about the fetching “nurses” at the establishment, as well as entrees like the quadruple bypass burger, unfiltered cigarettes, and caffeine-laden sugary drinks.

While the restaurant is real, it’s also a real reminder that diet is a major and controllable heart risk factor. At least the name (Heart Attack Grill) and the name of its food items (single, double, triple, and quadruple bypass burgers) are completely honesty about what’s in the food being served. What for a change!

So if you or someone you know could use a good chuckle—or a gentle nudge to remember that “you are what you eat”—pull up a chair, check out the video, put on a napkin, and enjoy.

For more information on healthy heart nutrition, visit www.drsinatra.com.
 

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