Many of the emails imply Tim did not do enough to reduce his risk. Very few people do everything they possibly can do to reduce their heart disease risk. With Tim's family's permission, I have learned a lot of his medical history.
Yes, Tim needed to lose weight and he was trying to do so. He was dealt a poor genetic hand when it came to blood lipid levels but he tried hard to eat a good diet. He exercised every day and he took medications to try to get his lipids and blood pressure to acceptable levels. He got very good medical care.
Many people are heavier than Tim was, have worse blood lipid profiles, and never get heart attacks.
The treatment of heart disease is one of the great triumphs of medicine in recent decades. From 1950 to 2007, the rate of heart disease deaths, adjusted for the aging population, dropped 64 percent. But clearly, as Tim's death shows, the problem is not solved. He never had any symptoms, and all too often the first symptom for many people is a heart attack, and about one-third of the time it is fatal.
We need better methods to detect the most dangerous plaque in the arteries. But for now, all we can do is try our best to shift the odds. Tim tried and failed, but we hope part of his legacy will be that others will try even harder.