Heart surgery patients getting younger, Lufkin doctor says

By Holley Nees - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Dr. Taylor Pickett gets ready to perform open heart surgery. A triple bypass for one particular heart disease patient.

"We've got a tight blockage here," Pickett said. "We've got tight blockages here, got another tight blockage here and a total exclusion of the right coronary artery. That's triple vessel disease."

The patient didn't have chest pains or shortness of breath, but doctors noticed her heart problems and referred her for this surgery.

"She just happens to be one of the lucky ones because a third of the patients that present with heart disease is their initial manifestation of the disease presents with death," Pickett said.

Two years ago, Al Meyer, of Lufkin, was also one of the lucky ones.

"I was having a haircut down at the office and I felt nausea and woozy and I thought that it was from some of the seafood I had in Louisiana on the weekend," Meyer said. "I was sweating, but no heart pains and no arm pains."

Meyer was suffering a heart attack.

"My main artery behind the heart was 99 percent blocked," he said.

Doctors immediately inserted a stent so the blood flow could return to normal. While Dr. Pickett works on a bypass to fix the severe blockages in all three main arteries of the heart, he says the patients seem to get younger.

"All of the surgeons have operated on patients who are in their 30s and 40s," Pickett said. "In fact, even this year, I've had several this year that have been in their early 40s. So, I'm seeing younger patients with heart disease that require surgery."

Pickett says a healthy, active lifestyle could give people a better chance at preventing heart disease. As for Meyer, he stopped smoking, started eating better, and showing up to all his doctor appointments.

"I'm lucky to still be alive, in all honesty, and I plan to take care of my heart and after that experience quitting smoking was very easy," Meyer said.

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