Jackie Brown tells people she's "blessed" to be here, after not one, but two heart scares.
The first time, in her mid 40's, she went from doctor to doctor with the same nagging symptoms. Brown, who is now 55, says, "It was tightness in my chest. My left arm and hand were doing some tngling things. And the pain was excruciating."
But it took two and a half years, for Jackie to get a diagnosis: three major blockages. she needed a triple bypass! Her first thought was, "Oh, my God. I could have died. I could have died!"
Then, six years later in late 2014, Jackie went to Emory Hospital, when the chest pain came back. She says, "They snatched me up so quickly, because they found it immediately. They told me they were going to do a catheterization and if they saw anything, the were going to put a stent in."
Jackie got that stent and is doing well today. But a new study sponsored by the American Heart Association shows more needs to be done to help younger Americans like Jackie recognize their own risk factors for heart disease - and to do something about them.
Over the last four decades, the Heart Association says we've been making remarkable progress in reducing the number of cardiovascular disease-related deaths. But this new study shows that while heart disease deaths in Americans age 65 and up are declining, death rates in those age 55 and younger have stagnated, especially when it comes to younger women like Jackie Brown.
Michael Privette, Executive Director of the Metro Atlanta Division of the American Heart Association, says many women don't realize they're vulnerable. Privette says, "Often women will cite breast cancer as their primary health risk. Yet we know one in three women are dying from heart disease and stroke, which is more than all forms of cancer combined."
Researcher and Emory cardiologist Dr. Kobina Wilmot says the study shows we have to do more to reach at-risk people when they're younger, Dr. Wilmot says the goal is, "Finding the people who have hypertension and diabetes, who are overweight or obese. If we can find way to treat these people earlier on and then follow them with a physician, or get them in a good regimen, then we hopefully can reduce these risks down the line."
Dr. Wilmot says to take better control of your own heart health, take a look at your own risk factors. Do you exercise? Do you eat well? Do you smoke? Wilmot says it's important to work with your doctor to manage your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, which can all contribute to heart disease.