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Learning to spot heart attack symptoms

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BATON ROUGE - John Pastorek starts 2013's Reduce Your Risk series with a look at how quick treatment saved a St. Francisville man's life.

Bob Ramelli said he knew something was wrong when he started feeling very dizzy. The 59-year-old businessman said he never gets sick.

Ramelli rushed to the hospital, where he discovered one of his arteries was completely blocked.

"I was in disbelief," Ramelli told News 2. "There's no way I had a heart attack."

Heart attacks kill more than 12,000 people each year in Louisiana, the fifth-highest rate in the nation. Doctors say more younger patients are dying from them because they ignore symptoms and don't get medical help.

"Time is muscle," says Dr. Charles Thompson. "The quicker we can open an artery, the less damage and the less problems."

Because Ramelli acted quickly enough, his doctor was able to reopen the blockage using a catheter that went in at his wrist and slipped a stent in place to keep the blood vessel open.

"It was amazing how quick and painless it was," he said.

Now Ramelli, who never went to the doctor before, gets regular checkups and watches his diet much more closely. He also keeps track of his blood pressure and cholesterol much more closely.

"Don't think it's not going to happen to you," he cautions.

People are also encouraged to learn the signs of a heart attack. The American Heart Association says most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest or other parts of the upper body, shortness of breath, nausea or lightheadedness, and breaking out in a cold sweat.

For more information, visit the American Heart Association's website.

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