Orrin Hatch was an attorney whose 42 years in the U.S. Senate from 1977 to 2019 made him the longest-serving Republican U.S. senator ever. In the Senate, he was:
• President pro tempore in 2015
• Chairman Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions from 1981 to 1987
• Chairman Judiciary Committee from 1995-2001 and 2003-2005
• Chairman Finance Committee from 2015 to 2019
He retired from the Senate in 2019 and died at age 88 on April 23, 2022, one week after suffering a stroke.
Perhaps his most destructive legislative achievement was the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) that he introduced with Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. The DSHEA substantially eliminated all government regulation of the dietary and herbal supplements industry. It allowed manufacturers to make health claims without prior approval from the Food and Drug Administration unless that product was proven to harm people’s health. This act has fostered the appearance on the market of many unproven vitamin and mineral supplements, botanicals, amino acids, oils, hormonal extracts, probiotics and more. That is why so many dietary supplements have disclaimers like: “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
In 2014, at a dietary supplement industry conference marking DSHEA’s 20th anniversary, Hatch claimed that, “DSHEA established a rational framework for the regulation of dietary supplements.” Of course this statement is unbelievable and the supplement industry has grown from $9 billion in 1994 to more than $75 billion today and close to half of the North American population takes dietary supplements.
Early Life and Education
Hatch was born near Pittsburgh, in poverty during the great depression, to a father who was a metal lather. He had eight brothers and sisters. He was the first in his family to attend college, and received his B.A. from Brigham Young University and law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He said that during law school, he lived in a refurbished chicken coop behind his parents’ house.
Senate Votes, Positions and Accomplishments
According to a Wikipedia article on his voting record, Hatch took these positions:
• Abortion: Opposed
• Anti-terrorism: was the leading figure behind the senate’s anti-terrorism bill
• Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. Voted for $300 billion to guarantee mortgages and restore confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
• Balanced budget amendment: advocated amending the United States Constitution to require that total spending of the federal government for any fiscal year not exceed total receipts
• Medicare prescription drug benefit plan known as Medicare Part D: Supported
• Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act of 2014: Supported
• Immigration: advocated tougher enforcement immigration policy including voting for 1,500 new law enforcement agents to patrol the United States’ borders.
• Intellectual property: Supported the Copyright Term Extension Act which offered greater protections to authors and creators.
• Copyright owners: Supported destroying computer equipment and information of those suspected of copyright infringement
• LGBT rights: In 1977, he told students at the University of Utah, “I wouldn’t want to see homosexuals teaching school any more than I’d want to see members of the American Nazi Party teaching school.” In 2013, he stated that he viewed same-sex marriage as “undermining the very basis of marital law”. However, he voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation creating protected classes for those identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. In 2018, Hatch “honored Pride” by giving a speech in support of programs to help and serve LGBT youth.
• Nuclear testing: Hatch was one of twenty-six senators who voted against the ratification of New Start, a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russian Federation obliging both countries to have no more than 1,550 strategic warheads as well as 700 launchers deployed during the next seven years along with providing a continuation of on-site inspections that halted when START I expired the previous year.
• Opioid crisis: Introduced the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, restricting the authority of the DEA to suspend drug “manufacturers, distributors, and dispensers.”
• Religious freedom: Main author of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protected all religions’ right to build church facilities on private property.
• Called for a federal probe into manufacturers of violent video games
• Stem cell research: Introduced a bill to allow stem cells from umbilical cords to be used to treat medical conditions.
Preventing and Treating Strokes
Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, strokes kill more than 185,000 North Americans and permanently cripple far more than that.
A stroke is sudden interruption of the blood flow to the brain. Most strokes are caused by:
• a clot blocking blood flow to the brain, or
• a blood vessel bursting to bleed into and crush parts of the brain.
The brain controls breathing, so a person stops breathing after just three minutes of his brain not receiving any oxygen though the bloodstream. If the blood flow is only partially obstructed, parts of the brain start to die in three hours or less.
Lifestyle Risk Factors for Stroke
Everything that can damage blood vessels increases risk for strokes (Current Atherosclerosis Reports, 2000;2:160–166):
• A pro-inflammatory diet that is low in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans, and high in red meat, processed meats, fried foods, sugar-added foods and sugared drinks (Int J Prev Med, 2013 May; 4(Suppl 2): S165–S179)
• Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity
• lack of exercise
• Use of recreational drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines or heroin
• smoking or breathing in second-hand smoke,
• some medications such as blood-thinning drugs, hormones to treat menopause and some birth control pills
• air pollution and some environmental pollutants
Risk Factors You Cannot Control
• aging (risk doubles after age 55)
• family history of strokes
• being African-American or nonwhite Hispanic American
• having sickle cell disease (Stroke, May 2014;45:2041–2046)
• having had a previous stroke
Medical Conditions that Increase Stroke Risk
• high blood pressure
• high cholesterol
• heart disease
• diabetes (more than doubles the risk) because arterial damage is done by blood sugars that rise too high after meals. Anyone who has a blood sugar level higher than 145 one hour after eating a meal should immediately adopt a lifestyle that helps to prevent and treat diabetes (Diabetes Care, 2001;24(8):1448-1453).
• sleep apnea
• narrowed neck arteries
• history of transient ischemic attacks (TIAs — a sudden loss of brain function or control of muscles that clears up soon afterwards)
• atrial fibrillation, in which clots accumulate in the upper heart and travel to block blood flow to the brain
• blood disorders such as high red blood cells or platelets
Help to Prevent Strokes with a Healthful Lifestyle
Try to follow an anti-inflammatory lifestyle that will help to protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and other causes of strokes:
• Try to exercise every day,
• Avoid being overweight,
• Avoid tobacco and restrict or avoid alcohol,
• Follow a diet that is high in the anti-inflammatory foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains (not ground into flour), beans, coffee, tea, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna or sardines.
• Restrict or avoid the pro-inflammatory foods such as sweetened beverages and sugar-added foods, foods made with flour and other refined carbohydrates, red meat (meat from mammals), processed meats, fried foods, butter and margarine.
Why a Stroke is an Emergency
If you suspect someone is having a stroke, EVERY SECOND COUNTS. Call 911 and get that person to the hospital as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the greater the brain damage.
The American Stroke Association suggests that you remember the mnemonic 911FAST: if you see a person suddenly develop Face drooping – Arm weakness – Speech difficulty – Time to call 911. Other signs of a stroke include difficulty walking, seeing, or understanding another person, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm, or leg, or sudden headache (although strokes are often painless). Most stroke victims will not benefit from CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation), but if you are trained in CPR and hear no heartbeat, feel no pulse and the person is not breathing, it is reasonable to start CPR while you are waiting for an ambulance.
Strokes are often caused by clots blocking arteries or bleeding into and crushing the brain. Recent data show that you have up to 13 hours after first symptoms of a stroke to start to have injections that dissolve the clot and up to 24 hours after the start of a stroke to have surgeons remove a clot (New England Journal of Medicine, May 9, 2019). If you have a clot blocking the blood flow through an artery bringing blood to a part of your brain, doctors can inject tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to dissolve the clot and open up the artery. However, you have very little time to get this treatment to prevent a part of the brain from dying. Other treatments are to have a surgeon remove the clot that caused a stroke, or open the skull and remove the excess blood to relieve the pressure crushing the brain. A surgeon may also be able to fix an aneurysm in which a weakened and swollen blood vessel burst to bleed into and crush the brain. These surgical treatments must be done as soon as possible.
What You Should NOT Do
• Don’t let the victim talk you out of calling 911. Trained emergency responders can start specific treatments as soon as they arrive.
• Don’t let a potential stroke victim drive himself to the hospital.
• Don’t let the person go to sleep. It is common at the start of a stroke for patients suddenly to feel sleepy.
• Don’t feed them. Stroke patients can vomit and then aspirate the food into their lungs and die from the food blocking their airways.
• Don’t give the patient aspirin. If the person has a stroke caused by bleeding into the brain, the aspirin can kill them. Soon after the person arrives at the emergency room, a CT scan will tell if it is a bleeding stroke or a clot.
• Don’t cancel the emergency call if the patient feels better. The symptoms of a stroke can temporarily improve before they become more severe.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com