Freeman News

Heart Patient Urges Others Not to Ignore High Cholesterol

February 15, 2022

Cardiologist and Grateful Patient Discuss Coronary Artery Disease

JOPLIN, Mo. – Marilyn Alley is a former elementary school principal who wants others to learn from her experience with coronary artery disease (CAD).

“My parents both had high cholesterol but lived into their late 90s,” said Alley. “I was told I had high cholesterol when I was 26 and also at regular health screenings but I blew it off. People don’t listen to their bodies but should. I was tired, out of energy and wasn’t sleeping well. I wasn’t listening to the extreme fatigue I was feeling.”

“Unusual shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, or a dramatic inability to do routine tasks should be investigated promptly,” said Dr. John Cox, Freeman Interventional Cardiologist.

Alley had previously seen Dr. Cox for a leaky heart valve but was ignoring the new signs of heart trouble. Finally, she went to see Dr. Cox who performed an EKG before rushing her to the catheterization lab to clear a clogged artery. Alley had a stent put in her left anterior descending (LAD) artery, and Dr. Cox used a balloon to open another artery. 

“I would have had a widow-maker heart attack,” said Alley. “I never realized I felt so bad, but I feel so good now. I was ready to go home the next day and felt better than I had ever felt.” 

Alley is going to cardiac rehabilitation and is now on cholesterol medication.  

“Untreated high cholesterol certainly increases one’s chances of a serious obstruction in an artery,” said Dr. Cox. “However, diet, exercise, family history, diabetes, hypertension, tobacco use and obesity contribute a lot, as well.”  

Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 360 thousand people in 2019. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about 18.2 million adults age 20 and older have CAD.

“Looking back there were little signs of trouble,” said Alley. “Foods didn’t agree with me that always had before. Things you don’t pay attention to. I didn’t want to, but I want to let people know, you need to listen to warnings about cholesterol and your blood work. And listen to your body.”

People can take a heart health assessment at freemanhealth.com/heart.