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Clinton: Haiti stress accelerated heart problem

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, now U.N. special envoy to Haiti, talks to the media in Port-au-Prince February 5, 2010. REUTERS/United Nations/Sophie Paris

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton blamed stress and a lack of sleep since the devastating Haiti earthquake for accelerating a heart condition that caused him to be admitted to the hospital.

Clinton, who is the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, underwent a successful heart procedure in a New York hospital on Thursday to open a blocked artery that caused him chest discomfort.

The 63-year-old, who was president from 1993 to 2001, had recently travelled to Haiti, where a Jan. 12 earthquake killed more than 200,000 people and left more than 1 million homeless in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

“Once the Haiti earthquake happened I didn’t sleep much for a month and that probably accelerated what was already going on with this failing vein,” Clinton told reporters at an event to promote the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s fight against childhood obesity.

“What happened to me wasn’t all that rare, but what I have to conclude is I’m not going to do any more weeks where I do three overnight flights because I am going to have to help Haiti for several years. I can’t get it all done in a week,” he said.

Clinton, who had heart bypass surgery in 2004 to free up four blocked arteries, said it would be a “terrible mistake” to stop working and that he plans to manage his stress more through rest, exercise and healthy eating.

“I have been given this gift of life by my surgery five years ago, the medicine I take, the lifestyle changes I make. I don’t want to throw it away by being a vegetable, I want to do things with it,” Clinton said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols