In a recent interview with PEOPLE, Susan Lucci, the daytime TV icon, shared her shocking experience with heart disease. Lucci’s friends’ husbands were perplexed at her hospitalization, remarking, “We know what you eat. You order kale. We smoke and drink scotch. What about us?” Lucci hopes her story will inspire women to prioritize their health, emphasizing that heart disease is the number one killer of women, but it often goes unnoticed. Even her cardiologist couldn’t predict that Lucci was a heart patient based on her appearance.
Lucci’s symptoms, which included chest pressure and rib cage pain, were initially ignored as she did not think that her healthy lifestyle and daily pilates routine could lead to heart trouble. “And like most women, I thought, ‘I have too much to do. It will go away.’ I didn’t want to bother the cardiologist,” she says. A scan later revealed a 90% blockage in her main heart artery, which was a hereditary condition from her father’s side. After undergoing stent surgery, Lucci felt that her health was back on track.
However, last year, Lucci experienced another scare after indulging in comfort food during the pandemic. She felt short of breath, had chest pain, and pain in her jaw but was again reluctant to call a doctor. After a checkup, doctors found an 80% blockage in an artery caused by cholesterol and inserted another stent. “I almost wasn’t going to speak about it, I was so ashamed of myself. But it’s a reminder to be vigilant,” says Lucci.
To promote heart health, Lucci has designed a “Empower Your Heart” jewelry collection that supports the American Heart Association. 25% of the sales go toward the organization, and the heart-themed pendants serve as reminders for women to listen to their bodies. Lucci also supports Damar Hamlin’s effort to encourage people to learn CPR, as women are less likely to receive CPR from bystanders in public.
Lucci lost her husband, Helmut Huber, two months after her last operation, and she admits that her health did not seem important at that time. “After that, nothing seemed important, my health or anything else,” Lucci says. Despite the challenges, Lucci remains a strong advocate for heart health and encourages women to prioritize their own well-being.