Broken hearts can be prevented with early detection
When her beloved husband died in September 2013 from plaque that ruptured in his heart while playing hockey, Victoria immersed herself in learning all that she could about heart disease, plaque, non-invasive test available and much more. In her findings and sharing what she had learned with her friends — Victoria noticed that there were many stories just like hers. It is because of these stories and her passion to — that she created No More Broken Hearts.
Here is her story:
Dean and I met in November 1991 and had an amazing love for 23 years. We created an incredible family with our two children, Jordan and Grant. We had a beautiful home, jobs we loved, friends we cared for deeply and a bright future together. That all changed on September 29, 2013 with no warning at all. Dean was only 46 years old.
Dean woke up at 6:30 AM on Saturday, September 28th, to run/bike the Muddy Buddy Race with our daughter. Dean was a very active person; He mountain-biked, he played hockey, he ran, he skied—all the activities we think keep us healthy. After completing the race, Dean spent the afternoon with our son and then went to play hockey with his favorite hockey team (besides the San Jose Sharks): The Red Dogs. Dean was one of the founders of The Red Dogs and played ice hockey every week for the last 15 years. His game started at 8:45 PM. He was on his first shift, four minutes into the game, when he collapsed at around 9:00 PM. I got a call from our daughter that they were doing CPR and he was being taken to the hospital. I rushed to the hospital. He was gone at 1:30 AM. That was it! 12 hours after seeing him with that huge grin, so proud with his daughter and his son — he was gone.
It took me a few weeks to even come to terms with what happened. How could this have happened? Did we miss something? Did his doctor miss something? Dean didn’t complain of any symptoms — how could this be?
Dean never missed his annual exam. Never ever was there any mention of possible heart disease. He was young, active, looked like a picture of health. He had no family history of heart disease, he was fit, he did not smoke, yes — his job could be stressful at times but his blood pressure and cholesterol were in the normal ranges. When I contacted his doctor to ask these questions, I learned that early detection for heart disease is just not something that is normally tested. His doctor said: “it is not like getting a mammogram or a colonoscopy.” I knew at that moment that my mission in life was to save lives — to save anyone from going through what my kids and my family and I have had to go through. Mammograms and colonoscopies save lives because of early detection; I have learned that approximately 80% of heart attacks/strokes can be prevented as well with early detection.
The non-profit No More Broken Hearts was launched in September 2014 in memory of Dean. The mission of No More Broken Hearts is to create awareness in the community of the value of early detection for heart disease through simple CT scans, such as the Coronary Calcium Score Scan. Heart screenings are available to predict heart attacks and strokes years before a tragic event happens, and yet they are rarely done even though they have been proven to — and can cost less than $100.00
For decades, Dr. Jeffery Fine, Executive Director of Shape Society and President/CEO of J & J Medical, LLC has witnessed an ongoing issue of “Perception” versus “Reality” regarding cardiovascular disease. For example;
Perception: Heart attacks occur in older people who are inactive, overweight, and have failed to take care of themselves.
Reality: As we read above, heart attacks occur without warning to even those who have no symptoms of heart disease and appear very healthy. We cannot look at a person and predict who is at risk of a heart attack.
Perception: High cholesterol = High risk of heart attack.
Reality: While keeping your bad cholesterol as low as possible is important, cholesterol levels are not a reliable predictor of who may have a heart attack. In fact 77% of people having heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels.
Perception: Cardiovascular disease occurs mostly in men, and females are at lower risk of heart attacks.
Reality: Cardiovascular disease kills more females than the next 7 causes of death—including breast cancer. Additionally, females are more likely to die from that first heart attack than males.
Perception: My doctor monitors my risk factors and health and has minimized my risk of a heart attack.
Reality: There are new inexpensive and patient-friendly imaging tests that your doctor may not be aware of or fully understand. These tests can find blockages before you have a heart attack and save your life. It is your responsibility to be proactive and work with your doctor to learn your true risk of heart attack.
These false assumptions can contribute to unnecessary death from heart attacks that could have been prevented.
For 50% of Americans the very first sign or symptom of having heart disease will be a full-blown heart attack or sudden death. There are no signs or symptoms leading up to this event and often medical care at this stage will not save these patients. Almost 40% of first time heart attack patients never return home from the hospital.
Despite these grim realities, the potential to prevent heart attacks is better than ever thanks to new technologies. New computer programs allow doctors, for the first time ever, to look at the arteries that supply blood to the heart and detect blockages before they become life threatening.
Cardiovascular disease is a slow process in which the arteries of the heart narrow over time preventing blood flow to the heart. These blockages are caused by plaque and lead to heart attacks when blood can no longer pass through to keep the heart functioning. For most patients there are no warning signs or feelings that anything is wrong as the disease develops and the blockages worsen.
In the past, doctors had to wait for a patient to develop symptoms of heart disease such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness before they could order a test to look at these arteries for potential life threatening blockages. Now, however, there are non-invasive, patient friendly tests such as a Coronary Calcium Score test that allows doctors to look at the coronary arteries from outside of the body for the first time. We can now look at the arteries of patients who have only risk factors for heart disease or have reached a certain age to find cardiovascular disease while the blockages are small and can be treated and stopped from worsening. The Coronary Calcium Score test is an extremely safe test which is done in less than 5 minutes with no patient discomfort at all. This test is offered at most hospitals and has been recommended by the major medical societies around the world.
People recommended for the Coronary Calcium Score test include males 45 and older, females 55 and older, and younger adults having multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, obesity, diabetes, or tobacco use. BUT this test is also for people who have no symptoms of cardiovascular disease and are presumably healthy. Remember, many people who feel perfectly healthy have heart attacks without warning so adherence to these guidelines is very important!
Surprisingly, almost 60% of the recommended population will have some stage of cardiovascular disease. The vast majority will have early stage blockages that are not yet life threatening and can be stopped from worsening by developing a medical management plan with your doctor. Research shows that the best chance for preventing blockages from getting worse is at the earliest stages, which is why early detection is so critical. These blockages are extremely dangerous and, if left undiscovered or untreated, would continue to narrow and eventually cause a heart attack or death. Medical procedures are available for the small percentage of individuals that find they have significant blockages and can prevent a heart attack or death that was likely to occur. For the approximately 40% who have the test and are found to be disease free, the suggested re-test interval is once every 5 years.
Perception: I feel fine and my doctor is not worried, so this article does not apply to me.
Reality: Many Americans die unnecessarily every day of heart attacks that have no signs or symptoms that anything is wrong. Just look at Dean Dupuy. He felt great when he woke up that morning; he ran a race with his daughter; he felt great all the way to getting on the ice rink….Could this be you or someone you love?
Native to California, Victoria Dupuy has always had a passion for non-profits and helping people. She has been active in many different non-profit organizations in a variety of roles. Victoria serves as Founder and Executive Director for No More Broken Hearts.
Dr. Jeffrey Fine, MS, PhD
Dr. Fine earned his PhD in cardiovascular science and public health at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and School of Public Health. He serves as CEO of J & J Medical, LLC specializing in heart attack prevention program development, medical education programs, physician training, and is the founder of the National Coronary CTA Data Registry.
The mission of No More Broken Hearts is to increase awareness for the need for heart screenings in those individuals who, like Dean, are asymptomatic and considered no risk or low risk. We would like to see a world where heart screenings are a routine part of our annual physicals, just like mammograms and colonoscopies.