KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the US, that's why every fifth of the month we "live red" here at WCYB. It's our partnership with Wellmont Health System to keep you informed on the deadly disease.
Despite knowing heart disease runs in the family, Phyllis Salyers had a hard time believing she was the victim of a heart attack.
"I started getting in [it] the jaws, down the arms, between the shoulder blades, and I felt like I was falling sideways," Salyers told News 5.
She didn't wait to get to a hospital and ended up with three stents in the back artery of her heart, but she wasn't in the clear just yet. Follow up testing revealed Salyers had other problems as well, specifically severe blockage in her carotid artery.
"My vision went a little strange, but I'd been cut in the bright sun, and I thought that's what it was. [In a] couple episodes, I couldn't pick my arm up," said Salyers.
What she had was three mini-strokes; the product of carotid artery disease.
"Risk factors for carotid artery disease for getting that are very similar to the risk factors for coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease. In fact, a lot of people who have one are at higher risk for having the other," said Dr. Chris Metzger, an interventional cardiologist with Wellmont Health System.
That means if you smoke, have diabetes, hypertension, or family history, you're at risk. If left unchecked, carotid artery disease can lead to a full-on stroke.
Dr. Metzger explained to News 5, while this is traditionally fixed by going under the knife, using a protective system to insert stents in a cath lab makes the procedure and easy one for the patient.
"I was awake! It's amazing, you're awake when they do this," said Salyers.
We found out, the process even found an aneurism in Salyers's brain; once again keeping her thankful for listening to her body and not waiting to seek answers.
"I enjoy every day to the fullest, cause you don't know when you're not gonna have another one," said Salyers.
Dr. Metzger explained to me, it's important to know the early signs of a mini-stroke, so you detect and fix carotid artery disease before it gets worse.
If one side or part of your body becomes numb, you can't speak what you're trying to say, or you have blurred vision or can only see out of one eye, you should see a doctor right away.