David is getting his heart health back on track.

You’ve probably heard this statistic before – heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women. Yet many of us may not pay attention to this statistic, believing a healthy diet and plenty of exercise are adequate protection from heart disease. However, paying attention to your risk factors also is key in preventing heart disease.

David Wang was in his forties, a healthy eater, and a regular at the gym. David also had high cholesterol, a fact which, unaddressed, led to serious consequences. During a business trip, David started experiencing sweaty palms, numb fingertips, and shortness of breath – classic heart attack symptoms. With no family history of heart disease, he thought he was having an allergic reaction. But colleagues brought him to an emergency room, where a physician confirmed he was having a heart attack.

“David’s story is an important reminder that heart disease can affect anyone, and unfortunately, a heart attack may be the first sign that something is wrong,” says Dr. JoAnne Foody, Medical Director of the Cardiovascular Wellness Center and Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “That’s why it’s important to know your risk and get regular health care checkups.”

After his discharge from the hospital, David enrolled in cardiac rehabilitation at Brigham and Women’s/Mass General Health Care Center at Foxborough. Working with his doctors, Dr. David Williams and Dr. Dan Forman, along with physical therapists, nurses, and nutritionists, David has gotten his heart health back on track. He has resumed teaching and taking karate lessons and is actively involved with his young children.

David’s recovery also has served as an inspiration for others. David and his care team, including Dr. Williams and Dr. Forman, will be recognized during a ceremony at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) national meeting in March, 2014, as winner of the second annual ACC “I am CardioSmart” contest for how he has lived his life post-heart attack.

“David is a prime example of someone not letting a heart attack limit the rest of their lives,” says Dr. Foody, who also is CardioSmart’s chief medical expert. “He’s the definition of living CardioSmart.”

The lesson from David’s story? Maintain a healthy lifestyle but don’t overlook risk factors, such as your cholesterol levels. Your doctor can help you assess your risk of heart disease and develop a plan for taking care of your heart.

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– Michelle C./Jamie R.

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