El Paso heart disease and stroke higher at the beginning of the year


EL PASO, Texas--United Medical Center in El Paso has seen a spike in the number of heart attacks and stroke cases over the first four months of the year since 2013.

Even though it can strike suddenly doctors says it takes decades of poor habits to put you at risk.

Dr. Oscar Aguilar, a interventional cardiologist, said he sees many patients after they're reached the later stages of heart disease.

"It takes decades for someone to have a heart attack," said Aguilar. "Maybe 30, 40, 50 years, but we don't know because we're just harboring this disease, this plaque formation that is growing slowly and silently."

Aguilar said it's hard to detect the amount of plaque that is lining a patient's arteries because the 30 percent to 40 percent blockage that can cause a heart attack or stroke doesn't show up on stress tests that are done for heart disease.

The other problem, according to Aguilar, is that the signs of a heart attack in women are different than those in men so many of them missed. Men have chest pain, chest pressure or heartburn while women mostly experience a shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting.

Sara Carroll has been seeing Aguilar for more than two years. She was just like many of the patients in El Paso that found themselves in the hospital after much of the damage had already been done.

"I had chest pain so I made an appointment with a cardiologist and I went to see him he didn't want to do a stress test right then he put me in and did surgery"

Carroll had a triple bypass heart operation after going in for simple check-up. After surviving a sudden heart attack Carroll says she made dramatic changes to her diet, exercise and overall lifestyle.

"I tried to be careful but of course not careful enough, I wish had known 20 years ago what I know now," said Carroll.

Aguilar said there are five major risk factors that make patients more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes.

"Overweight, high sugar, which is a reading higher than 99. High triglycerides, low good cholesterol which we call HDL, and the other one is high blood pressure," said Aguilar.

Aguilar said there are simple things that help lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

"A good amount of exercise, walking one hour a day will keep the doctor away," said Aguilar.

Aguilar also suggests a healthy diet, good sleep, the right supplements and taking the time to relax.

"The last one we always forget is the mind, A very un-stressful life, which if tough, is helpful," "If you are very stressed all day then give yourself some time to meditate and relax."

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