DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) It's a broad term, heart disease.
"Valve heart disease, problems with the heart muscle itself, ethical problems, arrhythmias, and also coronary artery disease," stated SAMC Cardiologist, Dr. Darius Aliabadi.
The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease.
"Or atherosclerosis,” said Aliabadi. “It is very high in this area. We are sort of in this stroke belt where we have a very high instance of strokes and heart disease."
This occurs when plaque builds up in the heart's arteries. Dr.Aliabadi says there are usually no symptoms to plaque buildup. He also warns it does not take much plaque to cause problems.
"You see plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart as young as 18, 19, and 20. You can jog, and work out and feel fine, but sometimes these plaques become unstable and rupture open. And when that happens the content of the plaque gets exposed to blood and the blood clot develops where the plaque ruptures. you go from being okay to having no blood flow and that' a heart attack."
Symptoms of a heart attack go beyond chest pain. Dr.Aliabadi says it can be anywhere from your earlobe down to your belly button, but knowing the symptoms is what's most important.
"It may be in the back, or up in the shoulder area, or down the arm or just in the wrist. We have patients who have gone to the ER with a toothache, thinking it's a toothache but it's really a heart attack."
The location of this angina, or heart pain is also different in women when compared to men.
"In men it's usually exertional. in women its usually after stressful events, at night, at rest."
A stressful event caused Tonya Money to have a heart attack. She has worked in the medical field for more than 20 years, so she recognized the symptoms right away, which saved her life.
"I had no doubt in my mind what it was,” said Money. It was immediate severe pain in the middle of my chest and a few seconds later I had the radiation down my arm. My advice would be to know what risk factors you have for heart disease."
Risk factors for heart disease are diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking which includes smokeless tobacco, high cholesterol, and family history.
If you are experiencing any heart attack symptoms, Aliabadi says take an aspirin and go to the e-r right away. There is a 2 hour window to save a majority of heart muscle. Beyond 12, it's too late.