We came close to losing a national treasure Wednesday morning as soap opera star Susan Lucci had an emergency heart procedure for severe artery blockage. A CT scan showed she had 90% blockage in her heart’s main artery and 70% in another. She’s since said she is lucky to be alive. Her cardiologist told People Magazine that if left unchecked, that 90% could have been 100.
“She could have suffered a significant heart attack or even sudden death,” said Holly Andersen, an associate professor of medicine at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Susan Lucci was for all intents and purposes not only a healthy woman but according to Dr. Oz, she’s the textbook definition of what you should do to be healthy. She ate a healthy Mediterranean diet and did pilates.
“As a woman you think about breast cancer, not a heart attack,” Lucci told People. “Every EKG I had was great. My blood pressure was on the lower end of normal.”
She does however have a family history of heart disease as her father Victor passed from a heart attack in his late 40s. In comparison, at 72, one would think she was pretty much in the clear.
Lucci pointed out that everyone’s symptoms are different. She experienced tightness in her chest in the fall but dismissed it as fatigue. She felt it again 10 days before going to the emergency room “radiating around my rib cage,” and again paid it no attention. The telling moment was when she was shopping she felt what seemed like an elephant standing on her chest.
“I’m not a nurse or anyone who can help in any real way,” Lucci explained to People about speaking up about her heart scare. “This is the way I can help. I can tell my story. Everyone’s symptoms are different, but I felt compelled to share mine. Even if it’s one person I help. That is someone’s life.”
Heart disease kills one out of three women, approximately 400,000 a year according to the American Heart Association. It’s why it’s important to learn about these symptoms and to make sure this death toll is kept at a minimum as much as possible.
Lucci is now a national volunteer and spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign using her story to help inspire and raise awareness for others. We often put ourselves on the back burner. But if your body is telling you something, we need to pay attention.” And doing that helped save her life.
“The key thing Susan did was to seek help when she had symptoms, rather than think it would go away,” says Dr. Shlofmitz. He goes on to say “She has no damage. Her heart is pumping as good as when she was born.”
“Susan telling her story will save lives,” notes her cardiologist Dr. Andersen, who adds, “Everyone should know how to save a life with Hands Only CPR. It takes only one minute to learn at HandsOnly.org.”