Lubbock Doctor says soap opera star has familiar story

Healthwise: Cardiologist Mac Ansari on heart disease in women

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Soap star Susan Lucci has revealed a secret that she has kept since October. She says she would probably be dead right now if a friend had not taken her to an emergency room.

She says she had a feeling of pressure on her chest. Her doctors discovered she had two blocked arteries, one 90% and the other 70%.

Even though Susan Lucci is the picture of good health at age 72, Dr. Mac Ansari, a cardiologist and Texas Tech Physician, says her story is all too common. He explains, “Women in particular have to be careful at postmenopausal age because that protective effect that estrogen has for heart disease is gone now."

Dr. Ansari says a heart attack isn’t always what you see in the movies. Especially in women, he says there can be many different clues. “For example, you have to look out for not only the chest pain or chest pressure but sweating, dizziness, light-headedness, heartburn, shoulder pain radiating down and up to the jaw."

Lucci admits she felt that heavy pressure like an elephant on the chest – twice - before she confided in a friend who took her to the hospital. She says, “I didn’t want to overreact. I didn’t want to be foolish."

Dr. Ansari says he hears that a lot too. “It’s not worth feeling foolish. What price would be life? So it’s absolutely important when you have any of these symptoms, seek help right away." There are many risk factors that can increase the odds of a heart attack. Dr. Ansari says he is especially concerned for patients with diabetes because neuropathy can hide the pain and therefore erase an important clue that the person could be having heart trouble. Especially in diabetics, he says, shortness of breath could be a red flag that the heart needs special attention.

Susan Lucci is now speaking out, telling women “put yourself on your to-do list and not dismiss any symptom that seems irregular for your body.”

Dr. Ansari agrees. He says Lucci’s story is a common one. “It is exactly what heart disease is.”

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