HealthThe Putnam Examiner

How One Woman Overcame a Family History of Cardiovascular Disease

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Louise Praino, who lived for years in Somers and Mahopac before moving to Fishkill, has resumed an active schedule five months after having been stented to open up an artery.

It would be understandable if Louise Praino was ever skittish about how long she might have to live given her family history.

Praino’s father died of a heart attack when he was 32 years old. Her mother died of a heart attack at 56, Her mother’s six brothers all passed away from heart attacks. One of Praino’s two brothers, required triple bypass surgery at 42, although with proper care and a healthy lifestyle is still around at 76. (A second brother had died years ago from ALS.)

Praino is one of the few members of her family to previously not suffer from cardiovascular disease, and with no symptoms maybe she would escape it entirely.

But when her longtime cardiologist retired, his replacement, Dr. Binoy Singh, chair of cardiology at Phelps Hospital, decided to give Praino a closer look given her family history, needing to be on blood pressure medication, her elevated cholesterol and her age, which is now 71.

“I had no symptoms and that was it,” Praino said. “He told me he wanted to go through a series of tests and the one that I was scared of was the angiogram because it was invasive, and I didn’t want to do it.”

Instead, Singh last summer explored other methods in the cardiologist’s toolbox, a stress test, a computed tomography angiography (CTA), then a CT angiogram fractional flow reserve (CTFFR), which is a non-invasive procedure to see what was going on inside Praino’s arteries. All of that uncovered calcified plaque in the rear circumflex artery, one of two branches of the left main coronary artery, which was 80 percent blocked.

“So that presentation were her risk factors, not some compelling symptom,” Singh said. “And I will say, you celebrate more birthdays, that is another risk factor. Although we like to celebrate birthdays, we do get to a place where that in and of itself might be a risk factor.”

In September, Praino, who now lives in Fishkill after spending years in Somers and Mahopac, had the rear circumflex artery stented at Northern Westchester Hospital.

Singh said that it isn’t unusual with that level of blockage not to have symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pains.

What has helped Praino reach her early 70s, an age that many of her relatives never saw, was a relatively healthy lifestyle, she said. She didn’t smoke, reduced her red meat intake to perhaps once a month (her family had been butchers, which saw her parents and other relatives eat meat at two or even three meals a day) and also went on the so-called Mediterranean diet, with a strong fruit and vegetable intake.

“We weren’t a family that went out to dinner, no McDonald’s or fast food or anything like that,” said Praino, who drove a school bus for 31 years, 27 of those years for the Mahopac School District.

“I always cooked homemade meals, but what I started doing was cutting down on the meats, buying a better quality – organic chicken and organic grass-fed beef and stuff like that. I would say that I really only started that type of organic (intake) maybe the past 10, 15 years. Before that I ate healthy and home-made, but I wasn’t into the organic like I am now.”

Her two sons were physically active, including one of them becoming a physical education teacher who is also a partner of a Hudson Valley fitness center, which helped her to have an appropriate exercise regimen. It doesn’t hurt that her daughters-in-law are both in the healthcare field, including one a registered dietician.

Praino said she returned to the gym after the procedure and has felt great. She believes her balanced approach has given her a full life.

“Make the time as a family to eat well, sit down, talk to your children and go to the doctor, stay healthy, work out,” Praino suggested.

Singh recommended that anyone over 50 years old should likely visit a cardiologist for an evaluation. That person’s variables will likely determine what should be done after that.

He said that Praino will go for stress tests every six to 12 months and should continue her exercise program and continue eating healthfully.

“All of these things reduce your risk of a heart attack and get us to more birthdays,” Singh said.





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