The Takeaway: GOP Debaters Rip Health Care Law; Sex After Heart Attack Okay

Intent To Repeal: At a second South Carolina debate last night, all of the Republican presidential candidates (a crowd pared down to four-Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum-at this point) said that 'Obamacare' can and should be repealed or reversed. Here's Romney:

It's one thing I want to get done, to make sure that states can take action to pull out of "Obamacare." But number two, we have to go after a complete repeal.

He added that he would replace the law with "a bill that does care for people that have pre-existing conditions," and work to "have health care act like a market, a consumer market."

Gingrich said Americans also want to repeal the law:

The American people are frightened of bureaucratic, centralized medicine. They deeply distrust Washington. The pressure will be to repeal it."

But while he may be right that Americans "distrust Washington"-a September CNN poll, only 2 percent said they could "just about always" trust the federal government, and Congress' approval rating has recently plunged to 11 percent- he's wrong about repeal support. A November CNN poll found that while the 2010 Affordable Care Act remains unpopular (56 percent said they disapproved of it), only 37 percent of disapproval stemmed from fears that it went too far. The rest of those opposed thought it didn't go far enough. And opposition to the requirement that all Americans buy health insurance has been steadily dropping since the summer.

For his part, Santorum blasted Gingrich and Romney's past support for individual insurance mandates, which he called the 'core' of the problem the law. He championed health savings accounts as "the primary basis of every single conservative reform of health care."

Paul was the only one who spoke bluntly about the actual political chance of repeal ("theoretically, we can," he said, but "the likelihood isn't all that good"). He said he was more concerned with "a bigger picture of what's happening" in terms of government involvement in medicine. He also criticized Medicare and Medicaid, but said that even though he thought "these programs should have never started," he wants to "try to protect the people who are depending on medical care," and would pay for the programs by cutting overseas spending.

Risky Business? Not So Much. Sex poses a surprisingly low risk to most heart patients, according to the American Heart Association. As long as you're healthy enough to walk up two flights of stairs without chest pain or gasping for breath, you can have a love life, the group says. And despite the higher risk for heart attack patients to have a second attack, there's no evidence  they have more sex-related heart attacks than people without heart problems. The AHA also notes that:

  • Married men having affairs ("often with younger women in unfamiliar settings") are most at risk for sudden death related to sex because those circumstances can add to stress.
  • Sex may be OK as soon as one week after a relatively mild heart attack, if patients can walk up a few flights of stairs without pain.
  • Viagra and other drugs for erectile dysfunction are generally safe for men with stable heart disease.

Friday Quick Hits: 

  • The Obama administration may have set a deadline of 2025 for finding an effective way to treat or prevent Alzheimer's disease, but some experts say that's too ambitious-and unrealistic. "No one set a deadline for the 'War on cancer' or in the fight against HIV/AIDS," said Dr. Sam Gandy, an Alzheimer's researcher at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "We make progress and we keep fighting."
  • And a new study found little difference between married couples and those that were unmarried but living together in terms of health, psychological well-being and social ties.

Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

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