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Soap opera actress Susan Lucci said she’s lucky to be alive after catching a 90 percent blockage in the main artery of her heart before it was too late.
Lucci told People magazine she first felt tightness in her chest last fall.
“I told myself, ‘It’s nothing, it will go away,’ and it did,” the actress said.
Ten days later, it happened again, but the 72-year-old thought she might have fastened her bra too tight.
By Oct. 24, she had to go to the emergency room.
Lucci was shopping in Manhasset, Long Island, when she felt pressure on her chest.
“I was actually in a boutique,” she told “Good Morning America. “And I suddenly felt what I had heard someone on a TV interview years ago, a woman says that she, leading up to a heart attack, had felt like an elephant was pressing on her chest.”
The store manager took her to a nearby hospital and Lucci called Dr. Richard Shlofmitz, her husband’s cardiologist.
According to a news release from the American Heart Association, doctors found a 75 percent blockage in one heart artery and a 90 percent blockage in her main one. She nearly had a widowmaker heart attack.
“Had she gone home, that 90 percent blockage could have become 100 percent and she could have suffered a significant heart attack or even sudden death,” said Lucci’s cardiologist, Dr. Holly Andersen, associate professor of medicine at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center.
In the ER, Shlofmitz inserted two stents into her arteries to increase blood flow back to the heart.
“The key thing Susan did was to seek help when she had symptoms, rather than think it would go away,” Shlofmitz said.
The actress is now a national volunteer and spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign.
“I’m not a nurse or anyone who can help in any real way,” Lucci said. “This is the way I can help. I can tell my story. Everyone’s symptoms are different but I felt compelled to share mine. Even if it’s one person I help. That is someone’s life.”
“As a woman you think about breast cancer, not a heart attack,” Lucci said. “Every EKG I had was great. My blood pressure was on the lower end of normal.”
Shlofmitz said Lucci has no damage and her heart is now pumping well.
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