Healthwise: A personal reminder about the importance of regular heart check-ups

Keeping your heart healthy

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - More than 600,000 Americans die of heart disease every year, according to the CDC. One reporter at KCBD came very close to losing a loved one to heart disease just this month.

Sydney Kessler says that doctors found a 90 percent blockage that almost took her father’s life early in February. She describes her dad as the type of man who loves to run multiple miles every day, and will order a salad and tea at dinner. However, during an EKG, doctors found a blockage in his left anterior descending artery. They described her father as a ticking time bomb.

Dr. Kyle Barkley is a Cardiologist with Covenant Cardiology Associates, who has been studying the heart, and heart disease, for years.

He says, “It’s the number one killer in the United States, it’s actually the number one killer in the world.”

For many who develop the disease though, Dr. Barkley says, “traditional risk factors are going to be high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking.”

But Sydney’s father never smoked and was very healthy.

“Every now and then we see people that have really taken excellent care of themselves and still develop heart disease despite being so-called very healthy their entire life and being very active. Unfortunately, sometimes those people have a genetic disposition to develop some of that heart disease.”

Thankfully, after the EKG, doctors were able to put a stent in his heart, which ultimately saved his life.

“It’s kind of like playing poker," Dr. Barkley explains. "Whenever you play poker you get a set of cards, and the cards are kind of like your genes. How you play that hand is how you take care of yourself, so you can have a really bad hand, have really poor genes for heart disease, but if you play your hand well you can still do fairly well at poker. Flip side is, if you get really good cards but don’t play poker very well and don’t take care of yourself, people can still develop significant heart disease moving forward.”

Sydney’s family hopes this story will be a reminder to get regular check-ups and keep an eye out for a wide range of possible symptoms. Symptoms can include a squeezing pain in the chest or arms that may spread to the neck, jaw or back, nausea, heartburn or abdominal pain, and shortness of breath. You may break out in a cold sweat, feel unusual fatigue, or have a sudden sense of dizziness. Sometimes the warning signs are immediate, or they may come and go over a period of days.

If you think you might be having a heart attack, you should seek medical attention immediately.

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