One day in November, Brooke Haack awoke to crushing chest pain.
“It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest,’’ she says. The pain began to fade but later returned.
At first, she tried to rationalize it away. “I was very fatigued, I lacked energy and was just blah,’’ she says. Maybe it’s just stress or anxiety, she thought.
But the 44-year-old didn’t want to take any chances and decided to see her primary care physician. She was worried about a family history of heart disease.
Thirty years before, at the age of just 14, Brooke learned she needed to pay attention to her health. Her father had just undergone a triple heart bypass, so his doctors suggested Brooke and her sister have a few medical tests.
“My sister got off scot-free but I did not,’’ Brooke says. She discovered her fasting cholesterol level was alarmingly high – more than double even what is considered borderline high.
She went on a strict diet: no eggs, cheese or pork. “No cheese was devastating,” Brooke remembers. “I was at an age when it was important to be like everyone else.”
She tried different kinds of medicine - one that even tasted like an eraser. It all led to having to be on a maximum dosage of cholesterol medication for years.
And then came November’s heart scare.
An EKG stress test showed nothing abnormal. But the coming and going of chest pains had continued, leaving a lingering feeling of heaviness.
That led to Brooke meeting with Dr. Ayman Jamal from the Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. He put her on medication to slow her heart. And while her pain went away, medical tests revealed a problem. She was told she’d need a stent or two implanted in her arteries.
The news actually came as a relief. “It’s not just stress and anxiety,’’ she thought. “There is something I can do about it.”
Brooke was familiar with the need for a stent. Her mother received one after having a heart attack some six months before. “I knew a stent was not a big deal,’’ Brooke says. “I thought, let’s get this done.”
She received a new absorbable stent. Instead of one made of metal that would be a permanent part of her body, this type would dissolve in about three years, after working to heal the artery.
She was a good candidate for the procedure, Dr. Jamal says. “She was one of many patients who have had the new stent. She felt relief immediately. The benefit to the procedure is that it restores the blood vessel back to normal. I hope she can have a healthy lifestyle.”
Brooke had the operation on Dec. 9 at the heart hospital and only had to stay overnight. “Dr. Jamal is phenomenal. My artery was 100 percent blocked. The first time I walked, I felt an improvement right away.”
Today, she watches her diet and exercises regularly - going to the gym and walking 40 minutes a day with coworkers near her office.
She hasn’t forgotten about her family’s heart issues. Brooke is making plans to have the cholesterol levels checked of her 15- and 17-year-old daughters.
Meanwhile, she says life is great, adding, “I feel like a million bucks. Now, it’s a reality how high cholesterol affected my body. With medication, exercise and diet, I’ll get to where I need to be.”
Disclaimer: Dr. Ayman Jamal is an independent physician and not an employee, agent or representative of Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. He is solely responsible for the provision of his medical services to his patients.