The First Year: Heart Disease—A Patient-Expert Walks You Through Everything You Need to Learn and Do. By
Puppy Chow Is Better Than Prozac: The True Story of a Man and the Dog Who Saved His Life. By Bruce Goldstein. Da Capo. $25.
Both these books contain lifesaving information, presented in both cases by people with firsthand knowledge of their subjects. But the tone of the two books is worlds apart. The awkwardly titled-and-subtitled The First Year: Heart Disease, which actually has not one but two subtitles (the second being, “An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed”), is a thorough, to-the-point guidebook that starts with day-by-day information, then has chapters numbered by the week, and then moves onward through Month 12. A lot of the basic information here can be gleaned from the end-of-chapter “In a Sentence” boxes. The one for Day 1 reads, “Although you may have inherent risks for heart disease, your contributing risk factors can be controlled and diminished if you take responsibility for this task.” For Day 6, “Recovering from a heart attack requires a mixture of physical and emotional rehabilitation; however, more than anything, it requires motivation and willingness to modify your negative health behaviors.” For Month 2, “You have a second chance to rebuild your life and body, and to begin you must take inventory of the risk factors and negative behavior to begin creating a plan.” These examples make it clear that the counting of days, weeks and months does not refer literally to a specific day, week or month after a diagnosis of heart disease, and that the underlying message from Lawrence D. Chilnick – who had a heart attack at age 48, the same age at which his mother had had one – is to take heart disease seriously and take control, to the extent possible, of elements of your life that contribute to it. Chilnick does not pretend that this is easy – it may be tremendously hard to stop smoking, for example, and may seem nearly impossible to limit stress in your life. But it is even harder to have a heart attack and know that you could have done something that would have made it less likely. Chilnick provides a lot of material that is readily available elsewhere, such as a Body Mass Index table in a section warning against obesity. But he also provides a first-person experience of living with heart disease, and helpful information on life-changing elements of it – for instance, the potential difficulty of air travel when you must carry multiple medicines with you at all times. Heart-attack patients and their families are likely to find Chilnick’s personal experiences especially useful, such as “My Story: Rehab Reality” and his discussion of “Returning to Sex and Intimacy.”
Bruce Goldstein’s approach in Puppy Chow Is Better Than Prozac could not be more different. This is a 100% first-person account, and it is a harrowing one. Goldstein was a twentysomething advertising executive in