When NBC Newsman Tim Russert died suddenly at work at the age of 58 from sudden cardiac arrest, it put coronary heart disease on the front page. Do you know the signs and symptoms that could make you a ticking time bomb?
We talks to a man who not only knows he reacted quickly to them.
Gary Ringgenberg is a farmer from Columbia, South Dakota. He's also a patient at the Avera Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls and he was smart to get here when he did. In February he just wasn't feeling that well. In March during calving season he says it went away. Then suddenly a couple weeks ago he had an awful burning in his throat and shortness of breath. He's learned the signs of heart attack the hard way.
Gary says, "20 years ago I had open heart surgery. 3 bypasses and I was great after that until now."
During a heart attack blood flow into the coronary artery stops which often leaves the heart damaged. That's very different from what Tim Russert died from, but Electrophysiologist Dr. Riyad Mohama with North Central Heart Institute says both stem from coronary heart disease.
Dr. Mohama says, "Sudden cardiac arrest is a catastrophic cardiac event where the heart stops delivering blood to the brain suddenly and unexpectedly. In a matter of a few seconds they pass out and if they aren't resuscitated they die."
Typically people don't have any symptoms before that happens, so Doctor Mohama tries to reach people at risk who qualify by implanting a defibrillator. He says it's made an impact on patients with weak heart muscles.
Dr. Mohama says, "It's a piece of electronic equipment that is geared to respond automatically when there is a fast rhythm, a dangerous rhythm and delivers a treatment in the form of pacing or shock to the heart to resuscitate a heart to a normal rhythm. It's a relatively minor and simple surgery where the benefit is tremendous."
We've focused a lot on men but it affects women too and smoking is the worst thing we can do for our heart. As Dr. Mohama says, coronary disease doesn't know the difference between men and women. Other risk factors are for coronary disease are being overweight, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Dr. Mohama says, "For people at risk if we catch them ahead of time we can make a big impact on the problem."
Words Gary Ringgenberg takes to heart.
Tearing up Gary says, "First you trust in the Lord. Then you try to eat right and exercise."
Gary had a stent put in during this trip to the Avera Heart Hospital but will have to return for a second open heart surgery.