Don’t let the heat disguise a heart problem

AUSTIN (KXAN) — When triple digits settle into Central Texas, the temperature can bring on physical distress, even a heat stroke. For some, the heat can also mask a far more dangerous condition, such as the possible onset of cardiac arrest.

Ed Sonntag first noticed something wrong a few months ago, during one of his regular hiking trips to Big Bend National Park. He recalls, “That particular time I couldn’t catch my breath going up and it kept getting worse and worse.”

Dr. Caitlin Giesler check Ed Sonntag.
Dr. Caitlin Giesler checking Ed Sonntag.

A few days later, it happened again while Ed was back home doing yard work. “I did the same thing, kept losing my breath. I had to sit down, put my saw down.” Ed attributed it to the head and his age. “I thought, well yeah, it’s probably the heat. I am also 65 so how am I supposed to feel?”

A friend insisted Ed see a doctor and when he did, he learned he needed a triple bypass, immediately.

Dr. Caitlin Giesler, a cardiologist at Seton Heart Institute says her patient got to her just in time. “Fortunately he recognized all these symptoms before any damage was done to his heart muscle. After the bypass his heart pumps well and he continues to recover really well.”

These dog days of summer can fool you. Be sensitive to warning signs and don’t be shy about calling the doctor.

“We’re all more sensitive to the heat and we’ll feel more tired or short of breath, maybe more easily fatigued when we’re exercising outside, but you should still be able to recover very well. If you were doing these things a month ago without difficulty and now you’re not, those are significant warning signs,” says Dr. Giesler.

Ed has recovered from the bypass, he’s going through rehabilitation and he realizes he learned a lucky lesson. “Be real cautious, and don’t hesitate to call that doctor.”

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