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Local woman's story underscores importance of heart testing

Min Todd

Min Todd says she's lucky her doctors caught the blockage in her LAD coronary artery before it was too late. (February 4, 2011 / WRDW-TV)

News 12 This Morning at 6 o'clock / Friday, February 4, 2011

AUGUSTA --- Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the C.D.C, and women account for half of all heart disease deaths. This month the American Heart Association stresses the importance of taking care of your heart.

Heart disease claims the life of one person every minute. It can also hit you when you least expect it.

Exercise is a part of Min Todd's day. Todd used to walk two miles every day. She never suspected any heart troubles, but that all changed after her doctors ran a series of tests.

"He called my daughter and said the L.A.D. is 95% blocked, and if it had closed off, your mother wouldn't have made it to the emergency room," Todd said.

She isn't alone. Cardiologists say not everyone has symptoms like chest pains or upper body discomfort. Todd says her doctor initially thought she had an aneurysm, but after a second opinion, they found the problem. "I'm just grateful for my internist. If she hadn't followed up I would have never known about it," she said.

University Hospital cardiologist Dr. Janet Utz told News 12, "The face of heart disease can be anybody you walk past on the street, literally."

Dr. Utz says she has treated patients who look healthy, and she says even women in their 30's and 40's can have heart attacks.

"It is a disease that affects all arteries," she said. "So to treat the disease, you want to treat risk factors: lower cholesterol, control hyper tension, avoid things like tobacco."

Exercising 30 minutes a day is crucial also. Dr. Utz says like any other muscle, the heart and the walls of your blood vessels need a workout to keep pumping.

"What kind of impact has eating a lifetime of processed foods had? We don't know. We certainly know exercise 30 minutes a day is very important," Dr. Utz said.

Todd hopes other women will ask their doctors about their heart health no matter what shape they are in. For now, she is feeling back to normal.

"I just got back from two weeks in Israel. I was able to keep up with the ones that are a lot younger than I am," she said.

Dr. Utz reminds everyone heart disease isn't disease that hits you when you're old. She says you can start to build up cholesterol deposits in your arteries at as young as three or four years old.

Cardiologists recommend checking your cholesterol when you are in your 30's. You can also ask your doctor for a baseline EKG test or a stress test.

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