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Heart disease symptoms to look out for

People often experience symptoms of a cardiovascular problem and don't even realize it.

HOUSTON — February is American Heart Month and an opportunity to shine a light on the number one killer of Americans — heart disease.

Someone who knows this all too well is Jorge Perez. He went to the hospital for a simple elective surgery that ended up potentially saving his life.

Perez found out he needed a procedure called ablation to treat his atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular and often rapid heart rhythm.

Perez said the procedure was quite simple for a patient. 

"It's one to two hours," he said. "You go under and literally an hour or so later you're up and out."

Dr. Arun Kannan, an electrophysiologist with UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann, performed Perez's ablation to treat his afib. The procedure required burning scar tissue inside of the heart to help break up the electrical signals causing the irregular heartbeat. 

Like Perez, patients often experience symptoms of a cardiovascular problem and don't even realize it. 

"People may have palpitation. Sometimes people may pass out from that," Dr. Kannan said. Sometimes people may have chest pain with that."

Those are some of the symptoms Perez said he experienced.

"My heart rate would go up and I didn't think anything of it," he said. "It would go up and chill for a minute, and then it would be fine. This is for years. I never knew it was atrial fibrillation."

Perez thought it was normal, but it turns out it wasn't. Now he hopes others pay attention to their heart's warnings.

"2.2 million Americans have it, and I think it is a silent killer," he said. 

People who are between the ages of 50 and 60 should speak with their primary care physician to determine if there's any need to see a cardiologist. 

For more on our Health Matters series, click here

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