Simple Health: Man survives widow-maker heart attack to become advocate

Simple Health

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Friday, people across the country will wear red for National Red Day to raise awareness about heart disease in women. Cardiovascular disease kills one woman every 80 seconds and takes more lives in the U.S. for both men and women than all forms of cancer combined, according to the American Heart Association.

MORE: National Wear Red Day brings awareness to women’s No. 1 health threat: cardiovascular disease

Symptoms can differ between men and women with the most common symptom being chest pain or tightness, but for women, it may not be the most severe. Women are more likely to experience other symptoms like indigestion, back or jaw pain and fatigue or shortness of breath.

“If every day you’re walking the dog and you can walk around the block and all of a sudden you are halfway through that and you’re having more shortness of breath, you stop and it kind of goes away or gets better pretty quickly. Those are things that we would look for,” Dr. Sanjeev Gulati, a cardiologist said.

Research shows both men and women can reduce their risk by maintaining healthy weights, exercising and eating well. However, that unfortuately was not the case for Kevin Cox.

The Hutto neighbor considers himself healthy saying he’s “always been athletic and doing martial arts and boot camps.”

Yet, despite staying in shape last July, while at home, Cox began to feel pressure on his chest.

“I didn’t feel pain,” he said. “It felt like someone had parked a truck on my chest.”

Cox worried and decided to drive himself to a nearby emergency room center, where staff quickly realized something was wrong.

“I think it was like eight minutes (after arriving at the emergency room center) I flatlined,” he said.

Cox suffered a “widow-maker” heart attack — creating a blockage on the left anterior descending artery.

Dr. Angel Caldera explains how the “widowmaker” heart attack affects the heart.

Dr. Angel Caldera, an interventional cardiologist with Baylor Scott & White Round Rock, said this is a major problem because it blocks one of the main blood vessels providing oxygen to the heart. For those who experience a “widowmaker” heart attack, there’s a 6% chance of survival.

Thankfully for Cox, the staff at the emergency room center gave him CPR and shocked him back to life before transporting him to the hospital for surgery.

Looking back, Cox said he is “still a bit in disbelief, but I’m glad I’m still here. I’m glad I am one of those six percent, and it motivates me to do more.”

For the last several months, Cox has been in rehabilitation and decided to change his diet to an all Mediterranean diet. He said he’s lost of his muscle but said he will gain it back soon and remains positive.

“It’s hard to digest and comprehend, but you just move on,” Cox said.

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