How I Survived a Heart Attack at 43

Francisco Menendez, 49, is a real estate broker in New York. His heart attack happened six years ago, and he still worries about his odds for long-term health. But besides the annoyance of having to take medication, he feels healthy and energetic today.

"I don't think of myself as a person who had a heart attack."
When I had my heart attack at 43, all my doctors were really surprised. I was young, Im not overweight, and I dont eat a lot of fatty foods. In fact, I never eat junk food. My father had a heart attack, but he was in his 70s, so that is not a significant risk factor.

However, a closer look at my medical records would have suggested there was a problem. My total cholesterol was around 400, and my triglycerides, which are really affected by diet and exercise, were 600 to 700. A healthy number is 150 or below. I was not on a statin, but the doctors were urging me to start exercising more and to cut down on refined carbohydrates, like pasta and bread. That can really make your triglycerides shoot up, and I love all those things.

The night of my heart attack I was home, and I felt a lot of pressure in my chest. Not pain, really. I thought it was indigestion. It went on all night and even though my wife Ingrid urged me to go to the hospital, a heart attack was the last thing on my mind.

The next morning the pressure was so great I could barely walk, so I took a taxi to the hospital. I know you are supposed to call an ambulance, but thats what I did. When I got to the emergency room, I knew what to say: "I have chest pressure and I think I am having a heart attack." It was 6 a.m. and they wheeled me in and started giving me blood thinners right away.

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As told to: Bryan Miller
Last Updated: July 15, 2008

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