Before his first heart attack more than 30 years ago, former CNN interviewer Larry King smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and had an unhealthy diet filled with greasy food.
After his heart bypass surgery — in which a plaque-clogged artery is replaced with a healthier one — King turned his health around, according to a 2015 interview.
But even with all these lifestyle changes (in his case, lots of walking and a healthy diet) his heart disease continued to progress. On April 23, King went to the hospital after experiencing chest pain.
Doctors used a stent— a tiny mesh tube that’s threaded through an artery and inflated so blood can flow through — to repair the artery that had been put there during King’s 1987 bypass surgery.
It’s a reminder of how heart disease can still get worse even with treatment and lifestyle changes, says AdventHealth cardiothoracic surgeon Kevin Accola, MD.
“Mr. King had a coronary artery bypass years ago and had done very well, but one has to remember there’s still continuous progression of this disease in spite of lifestyle modifications,” Dr. Accola says.
He says the takeaway for the public is that a person with coronary artery disease should be continuously monitored for warning signs of an impending heart attack.
“This case illuminates and highlights the fact that anyone with coronary artery disease must have follow-up examinations by their doctors,” Dr. Accola says.
King’s preventive care was a sign he was doing just that. On the day he came to the hospital with chest pain, he had been scheduled to undergo an angiogram. It uses powerful scanning technology to create a 3D picture of the heart and blood vessels.
Dr. Accola says not everyone with heart disease needs an angiogram to spot a potential problem. Other optionsoffered at AdventHealthinclude the following:
- A stress test. You run on a treadmill to show how your heart works during activity.
- An electrocardiogram, or EKG. Your heart’s electrical signals are monitored through sensors attached to your chest.
- Cardiac catheterization. A thin tube, or catheter, is run through an artery in your arm or leg to help your doctor look for coronary artery disease or other issues.
- Electron beam (ultrafast) CT scan. This computed tomography (CT) scan encircles your body, allowing it to create a detailed image of the heart. It can search for calcium deposits in blood vessels that may signal coronary artery disease.
A healthy lifestyle, especially one that starts young, is a critical piece of protecting your heart. But it’s not the whole story.
Though King’s heart problems may have started due to his smoking and diet, even healthy men can have heart attacks. Every adult can benefit from regular doctor’s appointments to talk about your risk factors and ways to reduce them.
For someone with coronary artery disease — the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 Americans a year — the stakes can be higher. The best treatment for coronary artery disease involves pairing diagnostic tests like an EKG with a healthy lifestyle.
AdventHealth Cardiovascular Institute uses the latest medical technology to help you find and treat coronary artery diseases and other heart problems. By offering world-class heart treatment, we give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re putting your health first.