February 7, 2023

A Routine Checkup Led Gustavo Guevara Immediately to the ER

For Immediately Release:
February 7, 2023

Retired City Secretary, Gustavo Guevara, always kept his health in check by keeping up with health appointments and screenings.  Ensuring his Golden Years would be long and enjoyable with his wife of 47 years, he made sure he never missed an appointment with his primary care physician. So, when he began feeling a little out of breath and a tightness in his chest, he quickly scheduled an appointment with Dr. Dennis Cantu, who after running a few tests, did not have good news.

“It was a surprise, because I’ve always been good with my health,” said Guevara. “My blood work showed good cholesterol levels for the past 15 years, so I’ve never been concerned about the health of my heart.”

That was not the case this time. Dr. Cantu quickly telling the 74-year-old that preliminary test results showed he needed to immediately head over to the Cigarroa Clinic for further exams. It was serious. Ironically, Guevarra was not alone when he received this news. His wife, who he says typically does not join him at routine physician visits, decided to go with him this time. It was a last-minute decision he says he was grateful for.

“I think the decision for her to accompany me was a sign from God that I needed to have my family with me,” he said. “We were both very anxious, but being together and knowing we were in good hands made all the difference.”

After undergoing further tests at the Cigarroa Clinic, Dr. Ricardo Cigarroa, Interventional Cardiologist, broke the news that the tightness he had been feeling in his chest was the result of a clogged artery on the left side of his heart. The artery was 99% blocked and required an immediate intervention. That very same day, Guevara was sent to the Catheterization Lab at Laredo Medical Center to have a stent inserted in his artery. Soon after, he was sent home to recover.

In looking at cardiovascular disease, cases like Guevara’s are not unique. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after cancer, cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of death among Hispanic populations in the United States. According to the CDC, 2 of 5 deaths in the U.S. of Hispanics are due to cancer and heart disease.

This higher rate of cardiovascular disease among Hispanics is driven by a variety of factors. First, a lack of access to health care and preventive services contribute to late diagnosis of heart issues and higher rates of deaths. Second, nutrition, poverty, and other lifestyle factors, such as smoking and limited physical activity, contribute to an increased risk of developing the condition. These factors are especially prevalent among lower-income Hispanic communities.

In addition to lifestyle risk factors, Hispanics are more likely to develop hereditary genetically based cardiomyopathies and other cardiovascular issues. Other research also suggests that Hispanics may have a different response to traditional forms of cardiac treatments, such as prescription medications and treatments for high blood pressure and may require alternate treatments or approaches.

The good news is that with proper care and prevention, cardiovascular mortality rates among Hispanic communities can be lowered. Educational efforts to promote healthy lifestyles, especially among those living in poverty, are the best way to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, regular screening programs, such as cholesterol checks, help diagnose cardiomyopathy, heart failure, and other issues in Hispanic populations while they are still treatable. Early diagnosis and treatment of symptoms also help individuals manage their cardiovascular disease and reduce mortality rates. A sentiment stressed by Guevara when asked what advice he wishes to share with others.

“This coming April will be one year since undergoing the emergency stent procedure,” he says. “I look back at how it all happened so quickly and can say with confidence that had it not been for the early diagnosis, I would not be here today. So, I can’t stress enough how important it is to see your doctor the minute you feel that something is not right. That initial visit with Dr. Cantu, and the immediate diagnosis and intervention by Dr. Cigarroa, is the reason I’m here today.”

Looking Back a Year Later

As for recovery, on most days you’ll find Gustavo teaching Tai Chi classes at Laredo Medical Center. It’s a form of exercise health professionals call ‘one of the most effective exercises for health of mind and body,’ especially for patients who have suffered any form of heart trauma.

“The great thing about Tai Chi is its gradual infusion of physical activity,” said Dr. Ricardo Cigarroa II. “Tai Chi is especially recommended for patients who have suffered a heart attack because it helps with balance and energy, while strengthening muscles in a very gentle way and bringing the body back into gear after undergoing a heart procedure. It also has been proven to reduce stress, which ultimately lowers blood pressure helping to improve a patient’s recovery.”

Anyone interested in Tai Chi are welcomed to attend a free class at LMC. They are held each Tuesday from 9:30 – 10:30am in the Community Center of Tower B.