Wed, Jan 21, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Young heart attack survivor blames 20 years of heavy smoking for illness

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

A doctor said a 38-year-old woman who survived a heart attack that nearly killed her had an epiphany — that the nicotine and tar she inhaled by smoking more than 150,000 cigarettes over 20 years could have been a deciding factor in her illness.

According to Chen Fu-chun (陳復中), an attending physician in the cardiology division of the Chung Kang branch of Cheng Ching General Hospital in Greater Taichung, the woman worked from home on her own online business and smoked to relieve her mood swings caused by sales fluctuations.

“Her heavy smoking habit did not cause any discomfort until recently, when she suddenly experienced unusual chest pain and lapsed into unconsciousness for 15 minutes. Fortunately, she lived near the hospital and was rushed to the emergency unit by her husband in time,” Chen said.

By the time the woman arrived at the hospital, her right coronary artery was completely blocked, causing right ventricle obstruction-failure syndrome and her blood pressure had plummeted, but cardiac catheterization saved her life, Chen said.

“The traditional major risk factors for heart attacks include low temperature, old age and the “three highs” — high blood pressure, high blood lipids and high blood sugar. In cases where people suffer a heart attack at a young age, the mostly likely trigger could be tobacco consumption,” Chen said.

Nicotine in cigarettes can not only cause vascular spasms and constriction of the blood vessels, but also increases platelet adhesion and thus the potential for clotting and arterial blockages, the cardiologist said.

“There might not be any clear signs before a heart attack triggered by long-term smoking. Heavy smokers could lapse into a critical condition shortly after they experience chest tightness and pain,” Chen said.

Only about one-third of such patients survive, while others die immediately or on the way to hospital, he said.

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