Mary Kay Belin's Story

Shocked by Heart Disease

A Healthy and Active Life

Mary Kay Belin has spent the majority of her life enjoying an active lifestyle—playing golf, walking and working out at the gym—and eating fresh, healthy and low-fat foods. At 67 years of age, she did not take any prescription medications.

It was not until Mary Kay began experiencing chest pains during her neighborhood walks that she realized she had a problem

A Pain I Couldn't Ignore

"Around the quarter-mile mark of my walk I experienced heaviness in my chest that moved to my left arm," Mary Kay explains. "If I kept walking, it would go away. When this happened a few times, I knew I couldn't ignore it or make excuses. I called my doctor and she got me right in."

Mary Kay's primary care physician, Leah Lynch, M.D., performed an electrocardiogram and noticed a change in her heart's activity. Dr. Lynch speculated that the problem was angina—chest pain that results from the heart not receiving enough blood and a symptom of coronary artery disease. Dr. Lynch referred Mary Kay to a cardiologist for further testing.

Richard Chazal, M.D., performed a stress test and a cardiac catheterization—a procedure that allows the doctor to view the blood vessels, arteries and veins in the heart. After reviewing the test results, Dr. Chazal determined that Mary Kay's condition required another procedure to open the blocked artery and increase blood flow to her heart. Mary Kay's artery had 90 percent blockage.

Dr. Chazal referred Mary Kay to interventional cardiologist Robert Grohowski, M.D.

A New, Healthier Lifestyle

Dr. Grohowski performed a procedure to insert a stent—a mesh tube used to open blockage in an artery.

"Inserting a stent was the best option for Mary Kay," Dr. Grohowski explains. "The stent keeps the artery open so blood can flow freely through her heart. The stent also is medicated to help keep the body from forming scar tissue, so the chance of the blockage coming back is greatly reduced."

Mary Kay was home recovering from the procedure a few days later.

"I was pretty shocked by the diagnosis of heart disease. It was not something I really ever thought about. I've never had high blood pressure or cholesterol, I have no family history and I always kept a keen eye on my health. I did smoke, but I quit 30 years ago."

Dr. Grohowski says smoking may have played a role in Mary Kay's heart disease, but he does not have a definitive answer for her diagnosis. "Certain risk factors, like smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and family history definitely increase the chances of heart disease," he says. "But, not having any or many of the risk factors doesn't mean that heart disease will not still occur."

Back to My Healthy Routine

Approximately one month after Mary Kay's procedure, she began 12 weeks of cardiac rehabilitation, which Dr. Grohowski prescribed. "The cardiac rehab helped a lot because I lacked confidence about what I should and could do," Mary Kay says. "They also taught me about my medications."

Dr. Grohowski says that the medications will keep other, minor blockages from becoming more of a problem.

Today, Mary Kay is back to her routine. "I golf three times a week, I'm back to walking the trails in my neighborhood, and I work out with weights at the gym," she says. "I am so happy that I followed my intuition when I experienced that chest pain, and I'm grateful for the thorough care I received."

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