ABC News Lives Presents Prescriptions for Health: Your Heart and You

ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton hosts and discusses with guests the importance of awareness and the necessary precautions to prevent heart disease.
27:32 | 02/25/21

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Transcript for ABC News Lives Presents Prescriptions for Health: Your Heart and You
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America today. But how much do you know about the risk who initially think. Why this fitness who grew almost lost his life I feel fine so I'm good. And I was not I was gonna be a guy and a casket with a six. One young mothers cautionary tale I want to make sure that. Women hear my story and name listen to their body in the attic. Themselves plus soap opera legend takes on her most important role I could not push this up. And they knew the risks associated with coded nineteen I've never had any history of heart conditions prior to this lots hope for the future. Boost to low. How modern medicine named Wendy be able to silence the so called heart disease gene. And writings on wall this is where we're gonna go now to take on some diseases he couldn't treat people. Where can afford health. Your heart and you. I'm Dr. gen Ashton as you've just heard heart disease is the rampaging number one killer in America causing an astonishing one in every four deaths in this country. And Kobe nineteen into the mix and the urgency of heart health awareness amplify his whether you or someone you love is at risk. Every one should familiarize themselves rate now with this crucial and potentially life saving and co. On just how heart disease is most often detected how it's treated and how those you love can avoid becoming another statistic. Never ever what are my doctors said to me did you couldn't talk to your heart right now what would Jesus say. And the first thing I said woods who likes you give up on me. I was basically a walking time bomb that night it was just a matter of when the bomb was going to go off. I didn't realize that I had is silent killer and me I was gonna be at nine A casket with a six pack. Heart disease the nation's number one killer claims one life. Every 36 seconds nearly half of Americans have a heart disease risk factors. The beautiful thing about heart disease whether you have. Some of these newly uniqueness factor is at 90% of heart disease is completely preventable. Bottom line for the public and is. Know your risk factors doctors nationwide are concerned about heart disease seen in patients presenting with one of three different risk categories. Typical risk. Invisible rays and a new risk from cold it. They said if it wasn't a heart attack it was going to kill me that night it could've been the diabetes my blood sugar was 500 an eighty. Christian is it typical risk patient someone with an underlying medical condition it increases their chance of developing heart disease. The top five risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure so what is my blood pressure number. And I a diabetic. What is my cholesterol. And obviously. No one should be smoking. And then. Your family history. I died twice on the table. They had to do manual CPR twice and shock me fifteen times they call the clergy. Person forming. And I just tell their hand. And it just older islander. It really wasn't until. About nine days later when they took the integration tubes out that I understood fully what had happened. Invisible risk patients have no underlying conditions but risk factors hide in their DNA. Health and fitness expert Bob harper was one of these patients. All. Viewing Yeltsin as the biggest losers and longtime trainer turned post. I was in my. Working out in the next thing I knew I was waking up in a hospital. Two days later being told not only did I have a heart attack. But dragged on into cardiac arrest. And it was the quick thinking of the people in that Jim. To call 911 and there happened to see a doctor in the gym that day. I was in here. I thought how did this happen to me. An Iraqi program George Garrett has a new risk that doctors are monitoring. One fueled by cook at nineteen there are some patients who have colds it. And they get what he called bio Creag diets which is inflammation of the heart muscle. It is a very small subset of the covic population. But it does happen. I've never had any history of heart conditions prior to this and have an actor faction. My wife was able to visit me and that's the day the age of regulation began. One of the darkest moments of my life was when they took him to shock his heart. I was scared I would never see him again. But doctors say there is hope and it's all about understanding. Your risk. I'm doing the best I can to move my life forward I still coached football still coaching track. I'll more than likely tell my players that pay close attention to the body and listen to it you can't wait until you're in your thirties to start. Caring about what happens to your heart if you feel off. Don't ignore it go get checked. I am so lucky to be sitting here in my house right now and I realize that our lives. Can just go. In a second. So as you've just seen is so important to recognize they you or someone you love. May still be at risk even with out any of those tell tell risk factors. But what do you do if you face typical risk or worse symptoms and yet you're not able to get to kind of diagnostic care or treatment you need. Sampling this is a reality for many people in America especially in communities of color. And something so many doctors as well as patients struggle with daily across the country. A. Aaron and the nurse tell me these. Are hard. It hurt in that ordinance is that damn. And it was Steve Lawrence hours here or stay at. You know. Ciara Robinson never expected she would have a heart attack but beginning in October 2013. At the age of forty. Terrorist says her left arm started to occasionally go down and had pain in her neck. The inmate who slipped I too much. I immediately are. How great ERR silly. This crap. Out there our numbers paint and each year grant. Street. Blood pressure or cholesterol. Species in May be students or acts. In sell best in prom and ask it. This school. News a few months later Tarrant woke up in the middle of the night in extreme pain lasts straight up and is an act. Well and you know summons her. Art and on and on the air it. Aren't new she was taken to the hospital where doctors ruled had a heart attack. I'm paying eight teens aren't aware this time. Any you're young and are not looking back race later Saturn. Outlines. An actor. And not know one out singles three Ainsley. Because I did not act I don't know what I'm experienced. But on her third trip to the hospital doctors finally found out what was wrong. Night in accident -- my main artery an honest and you may want the same ops since content. Gary RS's. Stay because the color scheme in our costs outlined. They US attorney William and go home tonight. The house and home I slacks. Studies have show. Black patients presenting to the emergency room complaining of pain less likely to receive adequate pain control or pain control for that matter at all. Doctor Michel Albert is a cardiologist at the University of California San Francisco. She says the country's painful past plays a major role. African Americans how I have how'd mistrust of the health care system opt for good reason. V have experienced. Experimentation. In the pops related to I was search and other types of discrimination. And so the community is not possible of standard. Medical. Structures and systems. According to the American Heart Association while heart disease is the number one killer of all Americans and African Americans experience in nearly 30% higher death rate from cardiovascular disease. The American Medical Association recently identified a new set of guidelines for health care providers to better identify and combat health inequities Blake needs. We all have boxes. And those viruses can enter in to the care that we deliver. On to our patients many institutions are actually mandating implicit bias training for pit stop but this look at this point. After surviving her series of heart attacks. Tiara is now wasting no time. And she's committed to helping others find their voice if you don't feel comfortable times a year I. Content or topics you can't really minorities Biltmore conference islands and art so gains. Do it in any our white castle where ski. Are still relationship. We the minority community in I think it's not saddle stopped some vehicles to bridge those gaps. And I'm so pleased to report that carry continues to do well. And we thank her so much for sharing her personal story. If you think you may be at risk and your concerns are not being taken seriously. Don't hesitate to seek a second opinion if possible from a different hospital or medical center in addition. Always ask for full copies of your records and make sure you understand the diagnosis. And the steps for follow up. And lastly it never hurts to bring a companion with you to lend an additional pair of ears and dies and help make sure all of your questions are answered. And your concerns are a draft. Coming up. Women and heart disease. Think you're too young or too healthy to be at risk well think again. And it TV legend very personal story a cautionary tale about early detection and intervention that could truly save lives. All of that when we return. Back now with your heart and as it already July and I mom and the first line of defense for a woman who may have heart disease and may not even realize it yet. So many patients including pregnant women. Confessed to me they are simply unaware of their very own risk factors. That was the case for this young mom from Minnesota. I want to be there for my kids I want to see them grow up and just can't. Imagine leaving my kids that young and now they're more aware they now Mani has a heart issue. Anchors involved and thirty for yourself and Staten. She was barn at 7:30 in the morning in everything. Felt great. Right up until when she was born it that's when I surges to feel a little off. Like I just got run our Brian Bass literally thought wasn't really until six days after I was sent home that I am really started to feel. I'm that I couldn't mask that pain anymore and I realize that I needed to do something about it. They got into the Minneapolis heart institute and that's when they discover that I wasn't fact and hammer attack due to scat. Dad is spontaneous coronary artery to a section in its when he unitarian years artery within your heart. Net and blocks the blood flow and then that causes a heart attack. My life drastically changed after a IA had to stop running. Running was a big passion of mine and I can't do marathon runs anymore I can simply just jog or walk Ryan. Being. After I went Davis of and I imagine my focus and editorials advocating for women's art house and put together the first ever Minnesota I've tasted. And I was really looking margin as we had over 300 runners coming to participate in. Mean I had no symptoms of the last two years in Cincinnati was barring it. Rates start at an aids I want to get there early and I'll listen as soon as I got there I just. Felt ops. I instantly hit the ground my hands in my legs island. I was sweating profusely. And I had the worst chest pain I have ever imagined I knew instantly it was happening again. And a lot worse the second time around this time around my tears throughout the top of a heart what they call the widow maker. So is little more risky this time around. And then at. For farm emergency triple bypass. Triple bypass never even came into my mind I wasn't even there. Repairing or any justice in that it would never get that bad I thought maybe I'd get a stand if anything but when I woke up. And realize it was cheaper bypass I was just in shock I couldn't believe that I had to go through that and then it got as bad as it did. I want. Women to hear that even if you're young and looked healthy and feel healthy that you are at risk for heart disease. I think that's the biggest reason I am shameless areas that women actually. Listen to their body and go in an advocate for themselves. So even if you don't have spontaneous coronary artery dissection or scads of late Kristen. There are other complicating risk factors during pregnancy they include gestation diabetes or preterm delivery. And other risk factors like obesity and something called poly cystic ovarian syndrome or PC OS which is a hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age. My bottom line advice when it comes to women and their heart health whether your child bearing age. Or older. Be vigilant about taking care of yourself it is always a good time to start focusing on your health by including your diet. Increasing physical activity and most importantly. Listen to your body if something doesn't feel right notify your doctor immediately and have homes low threshold for seeking medical evaluation. And now from an unsuspecting young mother to a very youthful and fit woman in her early seventies. This is a woman whose relationship to drama has defined a long and illustrious career in front of the cameras. We turn now to the story of the love an actress Susan Lucci since going to a real life personal cliffhanger involving her own heart health and 2018. Susan Lucci wants everyone to know how early diagnosis. And intervention can save lives. I could not push this up I couldn't deny. This pressure. I was very surprised to be at the hospital Emmy award winning actress Susan Lucci revealing her help heart scare and hi I'm Susan Lucci I am an actress yes. And I am a heart survivor. State. And I hate I resumed in very good health and always had been. In fact. I have been asked Harper's bazaar to do layout with no touch ups in debating it that's scary to Haines. Or what and. The first incident I had was at the beginning of October and my husband error in a restaurant. I felt this slight pressure on my chest I wrote it off there was nothing in the second time it happened was a couple weeks later and I remember thinking what to I have. Will continue for autonomous have a new bra on and I knew I just what but the third time list. I was in of the. And I felt what I had heard a woman describing a TV interview what she had felt was like an elephant pressing on her chest. And in fact that's what I was feeling. I was scared at the same damn I couldn't believe it. If he'd been relay at the bench came into the hospital Friday night. The artery that Susan had been involved in a problem was called the widow maker because. If you have a blockage in that artery and that artery would close it would cause a significant amount of damaging to be a fatal. Audit and I'm hearing that I had a nine U percent blockage in my main artery and a 75% blockage in the adjacent artery. But not cholesterol but it turned out to be a calcium blockage. Which Susan's case to proceed U is very complex. Optical coherence tomography or OCT. Is a game changer in treating coronary artery disease OCT lets me figure out exactly how decisive stent in both branches and exactly where to place them. To get the most optimal. Long term result. It's completely mine to me how wonderful is sciences. I was released by news. And as I was leaving doctors it to me how important it was that I went to cost and that no one needs to dive. If they simply tacked. On here's this. I came out of the hospital. Knowing that I had admission. Hey everybody it's national Wear red day. With the American Heart Association I've had the opportunity to get the message out to women to put themselves on their to do list. To listen to their bodies. And if their bodies and not behaving. In a way which is normal for them. To act on sentence. And family history is very important my dad who I adored he was Perry athletic. But he died of heart disease. If Susan didn't come to us what he had that pain I suspect she would have had a life threatening heart attack at some point in the air future. It took a long time for it to sinking. The gravity. Very lucky and grateful. Very great song. And thank you for that Susan and doctor schlock Mets for being such great ambassadors for awareness. Susan's experience is yet another key reminder of how timely visit to your doctor's office. Or the emergency room can save your life. And when we returned to hidden risk time mom when even most doctors know very little about. Identifying a critical genetic marker and how advances in science and medicine he's soon silence the so called. Heart disease she. Science has advanced so much in recent years. Heart disease patients have more treatment options now. Than ever before from cutting edge electronic implants and surgical treatments to transplants and new medication. But imagine if you could halt heart disease altogether by spotting and turning off the gene that causes it. It may sound futuristic but it's actually a lot closer than you think. We've never been able to turn opera specific gene before there's been no way in history to do that. It's on 2017. I was married I had three kids I was vice president for fortune 100 company. In great health at least I thought. The national lipid association estimates Donald cosic is one of 64 million Americans born with a silent and potentially deadly genetic disorder. So lipoprotein AA is a pure genetic. Risk factor be got a single cholesterol particle. Which is causing plaques did buildup in arteries. But also causing have the potential for clot formation. While the national lipid association estimates. 20% of Americans are formally elevated LP little way. Most don't know until it's too early cholesterol normal weight was normal blood pressure normal never was a smoker. All of a sudden. I just felt some pressure and shortness of breath Donald doctor ran a battery of tests and found five arteries blocked one of them. 100%. They decided at that point that and in need a bypass surgery. I was very frightened. There was a lot of shock lot of guilt on my part here I am a nurse. Why can't pick up on something worried about my family worried about if something did happen to me how would they go on. The surgery was a six apps. But Donald still sought answers to his mysterious condition with Donald. Is a very tip that call. Lipoprotein a patient he has a family history. But he's incredibly young and he's accurate picture of perfect how normal people as a lipoprotein HI thirty and his came back ordered five times higher than thirty. Testing for electric protein aid it's a blood test when you have a strong family history of heart disease and stroke and those people definitely. Ought to have a life for protein. Hoping to prevent another episode. Donald volunteered for an innovative new study on gene silencing. We turn off that gene. With a little snippet that DNA that we you have that actually turns off the product of that scene and that product. His what's causing patients to develop premature heart disease the drug has to be given by injection but it's pretty convenient. Patients do it themselves once a month. Twelve times a year. And we expect an 80% reduction. In blood levels I think the gene silencing. That that I don't have to go through something like that again and that I live a long healthy life for my children are my grandchildren. The trial's going to go on for four years. But he and writings on the wall. This is where we're gonna go now to take on some diseases we could treat people. It is truly amazing to consider what this gene silencing therapy could mean down the road for heart patients. Thank you so much to the Cleveland clinic for that. And these with other hopeful medical discoveries on the horizon it can be easy to take a wait and see approach to your heart health. Especially if you're younger person with no. Clear risk factors. But my next guest is here to tell you now is at the moment to begin to lessen your risk of heart disease no matter what your age or health. Joining me from Miami and my good friend doctor Juan Rivera he's a board certified internist and cardiologist specializing. In the prevention and early detection of cardiovascular disease. One doctor Rivera welcome it's so good to have you with us. Thank you Jenny do you think Pletcher to be here with you so let's give raid into it one what do Americans need to know right now about prevention. Cardiovascular DC's it's a silent BC's for many many years. A lot of people do to restart after such S smoking hypertension diabetes high cholesterol obesity. Chronic inflammation are right now developing plaque in their coronary arteries a lot of people the first sign. That there is something going on it's a heart attack or sudden cardiac death. That means that right now to day you have to start thinking about prevention. What are some of the best tools. That someone can use right now to get a better handle on their risk factors what are the good screening tests that you recommend. You need to know your blood pressure your blood sugar your good cholesterol your HDL your bad cholesterol or LDL triglyceride level you need to visit your doctor and the men that. That you get cardiovascular prevention now. B young that one of the tools that I use constantly. With my patients east a heart scan a coronary calcium score. I usually we serve god for people that are out intermediate risk especially. Men above the age of forty and women above the age of fifty and it's very simple Jen it's a CT scan at. Basically of your heart it's gonna show here coronary arteries and we can identify. If you have to lock in your coronary arteries any you do. How much. Now one of the things that I think is phenomenal about your approach is that you. Really focus on prevention. Where is typically hear in western medicine we'd do better with treating disease you're more interested in preventing the disease. So what are some of the things that people can do today. Number one you have to sleep seven. To eight hours every day. You want to make sure you do that 101000 steps you wanna be at your ideal body weight you want to make sure that you're controlling stress not smoking trying to avoid energy drinks for example or at least not abuse them when he comes to cholesterol medications he's my opinion from a cardiovascular prevention doctor that at least in the United States they tend to be over prescribed and how many do you view. A very simple example you and I Jen have the same bad cholesterol let's say it's a 170. But you have a coronary calcium score of zero and I have a coronary Palestine score of 300 ivy bell of moderate black already. We shouldn't be treated the same maybe I can convince you to do a plant based diet. And that will be creature cardiovascular risk and LDL so these idea of being individual icing risk. I think it's the main message that I want to I want you guys to take from me to day. One such important in say it's truly lifesaving information. Thank you doctor Rivera for. Coming on and sharing that with us and for more information on how to prevent heart disease you can go to the American Heart Association at heart dot work. And finally here's some thoughts to leave US. The strong and beautiful beating heart this is not only a vital physical powerhouse its intrinsic to our compassion and wisdom as human beings. So we wish you well on the road to caring for yours. I'm doctor Jan Ashton thank you so much for joining us for this ABC news the lives special edition prescription for health. Your heart and you for all of us here at ABC news I'll see you next time.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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