heart smart

Craig DeSilva
June 26, 2023

Gene Corpuz practices what he preaches. As an HMSA health coach, he teaches members about the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle. He’s an avid runner, works out with weights, and is a competitive line dancer. He’s completed the Honolulu Marathon seven times and the Great Aloha Run more than 31 times. Corpuz doesn’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

So when he started having chest pains last year, he thought it was indigestion or acid reflux. The pain eventually went away after lying down. At an annual routine checkup, he mentioned the incident to his doctor, who ordered some tests.

HMSA health coach Gene Corpuz.

Corpuz underwent an echocardiogram and stress tests and felt good enough to run a 5K race without any problems. But a month later, an angiogram showed blockage in his arteries. He was diagnosed with coronary artery disease.

The cardiologist implanted five stents to open the blockage and help prevent a heart attack. “It saved my life,” says Corpuz, 65. “I was a ticking time bomb. Luckily, it was caught early.”

Gene Corpuz makes exercise part of his daily routine.

Warning signs
Corpuz says no matter how healthy you think you are, you should listen to your body and see a doctor if you have symptoms.

“Common symptoms include tightness or pain in the chest with exertion but also when you’re at rest,” says Honolulu cardiologist Zia Khan, M.D., board  president of the American Heart Association Hawaii Division. “Sometimes the pain radiates to the jaw or left arm, or you experience shortness of breath.”

Risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of exercise, smoking tobacco, and a family history of heart disease.

Have a heart
Dr. Khan suggests following the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 guidelines for lifelong good health.

  • Eat better
  • Be more active
  • Quit tobacco
  • Get quality sleep
  • Manage weight
  • Control cholesterol
  • Manage blood pressure
  • Manage blood sugar

In addition to your physical health, Dr. Khan stresses the importance of caring for your mental health and well-being. “Do activities that work for you – whether hiking, journaling, yoga, or just going for a walk. If you work on those things, you’ll be ahead of the game for good heart health.”

Zia Khan, M.D., is board  president of the American Heart Association Hawaii Division.

To learn more about Life’s Essential 8 and ways to help prevent heart disease, visit the American Heart Association website.

Check out our article about Men's Health Week to watch a video of Gene Corpuz talking about heart health.

Photos courtesy of Gene Corpuz

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