Matters of the heart

63-year-old Carol Ames knows the importance of heart health. She was only thirty when she had her first heart attack.

"You get pains in your chest, pain in your arm and it just feels heavy," Ames said.

When Ames went to the doctor, they discovered she had a hole in her heart. It had been there since she was born.

"I was surprised because I never had any problems until I was 30," said Ames.

That discovery prompted her to have open heart surgery. Doctor Steve Krause cardiologist at Blessing Hospital. He sees more than one thousand patients with heart disease each year. He says generally, heart disease affects men over age 45 and women over 55, but there are other factors such as diet, genetics, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. And for patients who have already had surgical procedures Dr. Krause says it's not uncommon to have another procedure where stents are used.

"They're very common, in fact very common in bypass surgeries," said Dr. Krause.

Doctor Krause demonstrataed how stents are used. It's designed to keep an artery open, and keeps blood flowing.

"If they're in the hospital when they have a heart attack, we do an angiogram to find out where the blockage is, if blockage is of a certain type, we can put a stent in to open it," Krause said.

Which is why it's so important to get to the hospital right away if you think you're having a heart attack.

"It's better to go there with symptoms, you don't want to take the chance of having a heart attack, so you're better to go, because if you don't you could die," Ames said.

Dr. Krause says heart attacks are the number one killer of men and women. $17 million people in the U-S suffer from heart disease. Half a million people die from heart attacks each year.