Heart of the Valley: Mission woman changes lifestyle following bypass surgery

2 months 8 hours 43 minutes ago Wednesday, February 14 2024 Feb 14, 2024 February 14, 2024 2:47 PM February 14, 2024 in News - Local

Never ignore the signs, that's the best advice from doctors, especially when it comes to your heart.

A Mission resident is grateful she didn't. 

At 60 years old, Iliana Peña considers herself on a healthy track.

"I feel like I don't have any limitations. They told me to lead my life as normal as I can, and that is my goal," Peña said.

That wasn't the case a year ago. Peña still remembers when she started to notice her healthy change.

Her symptoms started with lower body pain, so she visited an OBGYN. 

A few months later, more symptoms. Peña has indigestion and vomiting. She went in for a colonoscopy and the gastroenterologist said there was nothing wrong with her colon.

Two doctors in five months couldn't find the cause of her pain, and the symptoms didn't stop. 

"And then as I was exercising, I started to have chest pressure that radiated down my arms. At that point, I knew something was wrong," Peña said.

Looking for an answer, Peña asked a doctor she is friends with for advice. They suggested Peña get her calcium tested.

Anything above zero means there's some evidence of heart disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic. 

"My score was 900," Peña said.

Peña immediately went in to see a cardiologist at South Texas Health System's Heart Hospital in McAllen.

The doctor was finally able to give her solid answers about what was happening to her body, but the news wasn't good.

90 percent of her left interior descending artery was blocked, and doctors found an 80 percent blockage in her central artery.

Peña immediately went in for a double-bypass surgery within days.

STHS Interventional Cardiologist Victor Castro says the most common type of heart disease is Coronary Artery Disease, or CAD.

Dr. Castro says one of the best ways to minimize your risk is keeping a healthy diet.

Peña went from eating red meat and fast food to the Mediterranean diet which includes more veggies, fruits and whole grains.

Peña is now living a healthy and normal life. She encourages everyone to take care of their heart and listen to their body, like she did a year ago.

Watch the video above for the full story.

For more stories in the Heart of the Valley series, click here.

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