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Dr. Daniel De Oliveira, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, spoke recently in the Valley on heart disease in the elderly.

Dr. Daniel De Oliveira, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, spoke recently in the Valley on heart disease in the elderly.

HARLINGEN – Dr. Daniel De Oliveira, a new Cardiothoracic Surgeon who came to the Valley after working at the renowned Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, recently spoke at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen on heart disease, a problem that commonly affects seniors.

A heart attack occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart itself gets clogged up with a waxy build-up called plaque and calcium deposits, and a clot happens, stopping the blood supply to the heart. When this happens, the heart muscle, or “myocardium”, starts to die.

While chest pain may be a symptom in some people, it is important to know that in many patients — especially diabetic patients — a heart attack may occur without any symptoms, Dr. De Oliveira said.

A heart attack may present in many different forms. “Because we have many treatments that are effective in patients with coronary artery disease, it is important to understand how a heart attack and its treatment is performed here in the Valley and nationwide,” Dr. De Oliveira said.

Dr. De Oliveira also explained how a coronary bypass surgery is performed using the patient’s own veins and artery to supply blood to the heart. Restoring blood supply to the heart can strengthen the heart and improve the patient’s quality of life if performed before a heart attack occurs.

“While many people talk about the risks of heart surgery, sometimes we forget to ask the risk of not doing heart surgery when heart disease is present,” Dr. De Oliveira said.
How old is too old to have heart surgery? Dr. De Oliveira said many people think that age alone is a “contraindication” to having heart surgery. However, recently Dr. De Oliveira performed a coronary artery bypass surgery on a 79-year-old diabetic woman who had coronary artery disease.

“When she came to the office for follow up, she was doing well and looking forward to going dancing with her husband,” Dr. De Oliveira said. “Without surgery, she would never have gotten better — and she would have continued to have chest pain and a weak heart.”

In another recent case, a 71-year-old man had aortic surgery because his aortic valve was too tight. “Without surgery, most patients with aortic stenosis will die within two to six years after symptoms initiate,” Dr. De Oliveira said.

For more information on heart disease and its prevention and treatment, consult your physician and visit

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