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August 02, 2012 06:15 PM

A Heartfelt Message

sioux falls, sd

She usually works to promote the city of Sioux Falls, but the director of the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau now has another mission.

Teri Schmidt was just days, or possibly even hours, away from suffering a heart attack when she decided to have her heart checked out.  Schmidt is now taking steps to improve her health, such as eating healthier and exercising, after a close call last month.

"I've never had high blood pressure or high cholesterol or I've never been a smoker or diabetes," Schmidt said.

Schmidt says she wasn't feeling quite right, but was unsure if she should go to the doctor's office.

"All I had was this pressure and the one day this little bit of discomfort in my neck, but I was tired, and I couldn't figure that out," Schmidt said.

"The day before, I called her a hypochondriac," Schmidt's daughter, Brianna, said.

But Schmidt decided to get her condition checked out, and she is glad she did.

"It would have probably been a couple of days, and I would have had no symptoms. I would have just dropped over dead," Schmidt said.

One of Schmidt's major coronary arteries was more than 99 percent blocked. Dr. Scott Pham placed a stent in the blocked area.

"Oftentimes, women can just have symptoms of heaviness like heartburn, shortness of breath, sometimes just a little tightness in the throat, and that's all," Pham said.

Pham says if you are suffering from any symptoms, you should get your heart checked out.

"Most people have symptoms they deny and say, 'It's heart burn; maybe I'm getting older,'" Pham said.

"Pay attention and don't think that, 'Oh, I shouldn't run to the doctor for that. I'll be okay,'" Schmidt said.

Schmidt encourages others not only to get their hearts checked out, but also lead a healthier lifestyle.

"It's scary. You never think it's going to be your heart, and I'm in my 50s.  Am I really supposed to have heart trouble? Isn't that supposed to be for older people?  No," Schmidt said.

Another change of heart since the experience, Schmidt is spending more time with her children and trying to stress less.

"When I drive to work I notice the color of the trees and the flowers. I prioritize things with my life and what I'm doing with my time," Schmidt said.

"I don't know what I would ever do without her. My life would be over if she would ever die, so I'm just so happy she's alive," Brianna said.

Dr. Pham says people who are at high risk for a heart attack should get their hearts checked out.  That includes people who smoke, have high blood pressure, are obese and don't exercise along with those with a strong family history of heart disease.

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