All too often heart attacks occur in very healthy people who have no risk factors. One of the main reasons for this is the difficulty in predicting who is at risk for having a cardiac event. In general, risk factors for heart attacks include smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes and family history. Age is also a risk factor. As we get older our risk of heart attack increases, starting at age of 50 in men, and 60 in women.
A Healthy Man Has a Heart Attack
It was the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2013. Jeff Sweeney, then 55, was running on his home treadmill. As someone who exercised regularly, he’d just received a clean bill of health a month earlier during an annual physical, including perfect cholesterol readings.
So the words “heart attack” never crossed Jeff’s mind.
Yet he was having chest discomfort and tightness, both classic symptoms. In disbelief, Jeff’s wife called 911. EMS professionals arrived quickly, and as they were driving Jeff to the hospital, he had a second heart attack in the ambulance.
Treating a Heart Blockage
When Jeff arrived at his nearest AdventHealth hospital, an interventional cardiologist performed an emergency heart catheterization with stent placement in Jeff’s right coronary artery.
The procedure allowed doctors to look at his arteries that provide blood flow to the heart to locate the blockage causing the heart attack. Once the blockage was identified in his right coronary artery, Jeff’s artery was opened with a balloon and a stent was placed to restore blood flow to the heart and stop the heart attack.
The cause of any heart attack is almost always from ruptured plaque. In Jeff’s case, he had mild plaque buildup in his artery. The plaque became unstable, and then a piece broke off. This lead to a reaction that caused a clot to develop that eventually completely occluded the artery, causing the heart attack. But Jeff was in exceptional health. So what would have caused this?
The Best Way to Prevent a Heart Attack
Despite all the advances made in evaluating and treating heart attacks, it still remains the number one killer of American men and women.
So what’s the best way to prevent a heart attack? Have a health professional assess your risk factors for heart disease and discuss ways of modifying those risk factors. And the best way to survive a cardiac arrest is to never be too cautious or careful. If you suspect that something might be going on with your heart, seek medical attention immediately.
Luckily, Jeff reacted to his symptoms immediately and was able to get help promptly. The main reason he did so well was because of how quickly doctors were able to get the artery open from the time that it occluded. The faster that your doctors can get the artery open, the less heart muscle is damaged and the less severe the heart attack is.
Jeff says he’s fortunate to be only 10 minutes away from an AdventHealth hospital and even more so that he was in the right place when his heart attack occurred. He’s thankful it didn’t happen while driving on the interstate the night before, when he and his 16-year-old son were driving back from a soccer tournament.
Jeff’s cardiologist was able to treat him with the utmost care, and 30 days later he was back on the treadmill at home. “AdventHealth caregivers are unique. I am forever grateful,” says Jeff.
Now, as a member of the AdventHealth Foundation Cardiovascular Institute board of directors, Jeff shares his passion for health and ensures others in our community have access to the same great care he received.