It is an issue doctors called rampant.
A woman whose life has been changed forever by the disease asked East Texans to be aware of the silent killer.
Emilie Helt is just 40 years old but said a year ago, she noticed her heart was beating rapidly and continued to get worse. She went to her doctor who told her after a series of tests, she has high blood pressure and possibly Atrial Fibrillation.
He said Helt is at an extremely high risk for heart disease.
“He was like, ‘You’re a ticking time bomb, we need to get you to the cardiologist,’” Helt said.
She lost someone she loved very dearly to heart disease, at only 42 years old.
“My sister passed away and left my nephew an orphan,” Helt said. “It was devastating to our family.”
Unfortunately, it was only the beginning for them.
“I had a very large family and now it’s just dwindled down,” said Helt.
Her Aunt died at 48 years old from heart disease, and just several months ago, her cousin died too. Both her parents have had heart attacks that Helt said, they are lucky to have survived.
“My father when he had his heart attack a year ago, he’s very fit,” Helt said. “He’s 76 years old and has never had heart problems before. All the sudden he didn’t feel right, went to his doctor and they immediately took him by ambulance.”
Dr Daya is a cardiologist at UT Health Northeast, and says several risk factors contribute to heart disease being such an issue in Northeast Texas.
“Smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and an inactive lifestyle,” said Daya. “The second part of it is the access to healthcare because of significant rural population within our counties.”
He says many people here are not aware that that they have symptoms that put them at high risk for heart disease.
“Keeping a close eye on your blood pressure and making sure you have a heart healthy diet, follow up with your family physician, if you’re smoking, absolutely stop smoking,” Daya said.
“Talk with your doctor if you have a family history,” Helt said. “Make sure you stay on top of it.”
Symptoms to look out for include chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations. Those that experience those symptoms should immediately get medical help.
Dr. Daya says walking just 15 minutes a day greatly reduces chances of developing heart disease.