Could You have a Hidden Heart Problem?

Published on January 09, 2018


Could You have a Hidden Heart Problem?

Lisa Kristiansen thought she had a bad cold. It turned out to be a life-threatening heart condition.

Always a healthy, active person with a love for riding horses, Lisa, 60, of Gaithersburg, had dismissed concerns from her husband and colleagues for months about her coughing and shortness of breath.

“I couldn’t canter my horse three times around the ring without being completely out of breath,” said Lisa, who began riding
horses at age 12.


Last February, she visited her cardiologist, who ordered some tests. Lisa could hardly believe the results. What she thought was a persistent cold was actually a leaky heart valve, known as a severe mitral valve prolapse.

Her cardiologist recommended Paul Massimiano, MD, a heart surgeon at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center, specifically for his unique expertise in a less invasive surgical option that offered a faster, easier recovery than traditional open heart surgery.

“When Dr. Massimiano told me he could do minimally invasive surgery, I was so excited — I stood up and hugged him,” Lisa said. “I just couldn’t be down and out for eight weeks.”

Within a few days of her surgery, Lisa was up and walking. She was back to work, playing tennis and riding her horse with more energy than ever in just four weeks.


“Healthy, active patients like Lisa often ignore symptoms, such as coughing, fatigue or shortness of breath, because they don’t associate them with a heart condition,” Dr. Massimiano said.

“For these patients, the minimally invasive heart procedure offers an ideal solution. Thanks to the smaller incision, patients can resume most of their normal activities in just two to three weeks, instead of the usual six weeks or more after traditional open-heart surgery,” he added.

“Now, I can ride around the ring many times and jump eight fences without being out of breath,” Lisa said. “My colleagues even tell me, ‘Your color is so much better. You look so much healthier.’”


Whether you’re a fitness fanatic or starting fresh, it’s important to watch for possible signs of heart problems. Call 911 if you experience these symptoms while exercising:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upper-body discomfort in the arms, shoulders, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats and nausea
  • Weakness, light-headedness or fainting

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