KATY, Texas (February 7, 2019) – Andrew Palitka believes he was lucky to have avoided a serious heart attack after a routine physical helped reveal what could have been a life-threatening condition. Palitka is now encouraging others to make their heart health a top priority.
“I give a lot of credit to my family doctor,” Palitka said. “She looked at the EKG and realized something wasn’t right.”
An EKG, or electrocardiogram, records the electrical signals that help determine heart rate and rhythm. After reviewing the EKG Palitka took at his annual physical, his primary care physician referred him to Philip Clay Haas, DO, a cardiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann.
After poor results on a stress test, Dr. Haas ordered a cardiac catheterization, a minimally invasive procedure used to diagnose and treat some cardiovascular conditions. “We insert a catheter into an artery in the groin, and then survey the condition of the heart,” said Dr. Haas, who is also an assistant professor at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth “In Andrew’s case, we found a critical blockage in the left main coronary artery and a 100 percent occlusion of the right coronary artery.”
Palitka was taken to Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center for emergency bypass surgery.
“When I was told I needed bypass surgery, it was sort of a shock, and it definitely scared my wife. I hadn’t been experiencing any chest pain or anything like that, just some fatigue,” Palitka said. “Dr. Haas laid out exactly what needed to be done and I was confident it would all work out for the best.” Cardiovascular surgeon Keshava Rajagopal, MD, grafted an artery from Palitka’s chest wall and veins from his leg and to the heart, allowing blood to bypass the blockages.
Palitka has taken a more concentrated approach to improving his heart health since his surgery.
“The doctors told me to stay away from salt, so I did. I was drinking a lot of coffee, energy drinks, sodas, and I cut all that out. My wife and I started taking long walks. In just a few months, I lost about 30 to 35 pounds,” Palitka said.
“A balanced diet and exercise are key components to someone’s overall health, not just their heart health It’s never too late to start eating a heart healthy diet or finding ways to incorporate more activity into your everyday life Dr. Haas said.
Palitka is thankful he didn’t put off his annual physical and encourages others to do the same.
“I’m glad my primary care physician pushed me to go see a cardiologist,” Palitka said. “I’ve had several friends who’ve had heart attacks and I’m thankful I’m not one of them.”
February is Heart Month, a time Dr. Haas said can serve as a good reminder to get an annual physical and ask questions about your heart health.
“Having an annual check-up allows physicians to track changes in your body over time, and help prevent small issues from becoming big issues. It can also help determine exactly what type of specialist you may need to go to, like a cardiologist. We encourage everyone to have their annual physicals so that, like in Andrew’s case, they can be treated for an issue before it turns into something much more serious,” Dr. Haas said.
Memorial Hermann offers a multidisciplinary team of cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, and electrophysiologist who collaborate and deliver the most appropriate treatment for any heart disease or condition. Learn more at heart.memorialhermann.org or call 713-222-CARE to schedule an appointment with a physician near you.