For this month's Live Red story, we spoke to a woman who suffered a rare heart attack twice.
Elaine Brewer says did not have clogged arteries or high cholesterol. "Mine was one of these unusual [heart attacks]. It wasn't a buildup of plaque or a blockage," she told us. "Mine was the so called 'spasm', where the artery just collapses and they really don't know why."
73-year-old Brewer suffered the major heart attack in April of 2013. "After my heart attack, my heart was only functioning at less than 50 percent of capacity. During the procedure I had fibrillation when they had to shock my heart back into rhythm," she said.
The attack left her with heart damage. Brewer had already suffered a minor heart attack only five months before, but she says she was back on the golf course a week after it.
Recovery was harder the second time around. "After the second one, which was the worse of the two, they came to me at the hospital and said, 'We have a rehab program.' I thought, 'Well, I don't need that. I can exercise at home,'" she said.
However, Brewer tells us she was too afraid to get on her own exercise bike -- she didn't know what her heart could handle. "I wore a defibrillator vest with a portable DEF. That was for three months because they just didn't know when my heart was going to get out of rhythm," she said.
Cardiologist Tom Bulle told us only about two percent of all heart attacks are like Brewer's. "It is relatively rare. The garden variety, hardening of the arteries-related, plaque rupture-related heart attacks constitute 95, 98 percent of heart attacks we see," he said.
People who suffer a common heart attack can try exercising, dieting or not using tobacco.
Brewer had to work on strengthening her heart. She finally went to Wellmont's Holston Valley Medical Center for supervised rehab. "When you exercise there they monitor, they watch it constantly. There's someone watching you constantly. If your heart messes up they immediately come over and take care of you," she explained.
When she started rehab she only had 30 percent of her total heart function. Last month her tests came back positive -- she was up to 40 percent and no longer has to wear the portable defibrillator.
Brewer told us doing rehab helped her get back on her feet. "I'm so glad I did it. I wish everyone would come," she said.
Brewer tells us her mother had a heart attack at the same age, but there are no records for what caused it. She thinks genetics made her more at risk.
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