James Gandolfini's death highlights heart problems in younger men

A 51-year-old Houston man suffered a heart attack much like Gandolfini's, but survived

HOUSTON - The death of actor James Gandolfini has caught many by surprise.

He was found by a family member after suffering an apparent heart attack in his hotel room in Rome.

The star of the "The Sopranos" was only 51 years old.

It's a story all too familiar for one Houston man, who also suffered a heart attack at 51, but survived.

Five years ago, Dr. William Daily wasn't just a patient at Memorial Hermann, he was one of their own, an anesthesiologist who nearly died after suffering a major heart attack.

"Once I got inside the hospital, I collapsed to the ground," said Daily.

"I had no prior history of heart disease, or high blood pressure.  My cholesterol was a little bit elevated, but mostly living a normal life," said Daily.

At age 51, Daily became one of a number of men that age, who suffer from heart disease.

Dr. James McCarthy was in the ER the day Daily came in, and he says victims of this type of heart attack are more likely to be younger men, and people who tend to have undiagnosed cardiac disease.

Daily was lucky he survived.

"They did the cardiac catheterization while CPR was going on and found a blockage in an artery of the heart.

As soon as they opened that up, the fibrillation stopped, and his heart started beating normally", said Dr. McCarthy.

But the outcome could have been much different.

According to Dr. McCarthy, nationwide about 400,000 people will be affected by this type of cardiac arrest, and there is only about an eight percent survival rate.

McCarthy says the key to survival is paying attention to the warning signs.

"Chest pressure up into the shoulders and into the arms.  Difficulty breathing, nausea.  People tend to think they're OK because they don't have any health problems, but these symptoms could the early warning signs that something very serious is happening," said McCarthy.

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