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Family history and heart disease

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BATON ROUGE - Family history is a major risk factor when it comes to heart disease, and not paying attention to it led to tragedy for one family.

Toja Myles' grandmother, mother, and aunt all have a history of heart disease. So when she started having strange symptoms in August 2012, she sought help.

"Just feeling tired all the time," she told News 2. "Thought it was stress-related, I didn't feel well."

Dr. Charles Thompson at the Lane Cardiovascular Center in Zachary discovered what was wrong: a rare form of angina which causes spasms.

"She gets the same symptoms that bypass surgery people have, but it's a spasm, just like a muscle cramp," he said.

Myles was put on medication immediately to control her blood pressure and cholesterol. Dr. Thomspon said if left unchecked her condition could have led to serious complications, even heart attacks.

Then, just two months after her diagnosis, Tonja's younger sister Sanja also developed strange symptoms. She ignored them, however, and died of a heart attack in October 2012. She was only 46.

Every day, 17 women die from heart disease and stroke in Louisiana. They account for almost 31 percent of all female deaths in Louisiana, many deaths which can be prevented.

Now Tonja is on what she calls the road to wellness. She's exercising more, watching her diet, and getting regular checkups. She's also spreading the word on her weekly cable show, "Choices," empowering women to make better choices and trying to turn the tragedy surrounding her sister into a triumph for others.

"Take better care of yourself, know yourself," she said. "It's okay to take care of everybody else, but you have to think of yourself first."



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