Susan Lucci Nearly Had "Fatal Heart Attack" and These Were the First Signs
Susan Lucci opens up about heart health scares and how she's doing after the loss of her husband of 53 years.
Susan Lucci captivated audiences for more than 40 years with her portrayal of Erica Kane on ABC's long-running drama All My Children. The iconic soap opera ended in 2011, but Lucci ,76, remains a fan favorite and queen of daytime TV, who still makes appearances. The star recently attended the 75th Annual Writers Guild Awards where she revealed she had a heart procedure done in January where doctors fitted a stent in her artery. She told PEOPLE that, "It is so far so good." But for the last few years, Lucci has had heart problems that turned out to be genetic. She told the outlet, "It's important for everyone to know their family history," Lucci urged. "I don't think that I ever mentioned my dad's family history to a doctor." Last month, she revealed to TODAY just how serious her condition was: She "came very close to having a fatal heart attack." As an ambassador to the American Heart Association, the TV legend is sharing her experience to raise awareness and encourage or be proactive in staying on top of heart health. But heart disease isn't the only struggle Lucci has dealt with. She lost her husband Helmut Huber of 53 years in 2022 and opened up about how she's coping with the grief and major loss. Read on.
Susan Lucci Didn't Pay Attention to the Heart Disease Stats Until She Had Health Issues
Most people don't think they'll have a heart attack and Lucci was one of them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "About 697,000 people in the United States died from heart disease in 2020—that's 1 in every 5 deaths." The CDC says, every 34 seconds someone dies of a cardiovascular disease and "heart disease cost the United States about $229 billion each year from 2017 to 2018.3 This includes the cost of healthcare services, medicines, and lost productivity due to death." The statistics are alarming, and Lucci told PEOPLE, "I would hear that heart disease is the number one killer of women, but that went in one ear and out the other. But now I get it."
Lucci Almost Died from a Widow-Maker Heart Attack
Lucci knows she's lucky to be alive after almost dying from a widow-maker heart attack in 2018. She told Entertainment Tonight, '"I don't think I realized what an emergency it was until they told me what an emergency it was." She explained, "I had some mild pressure on my chest last October a couple of times and it went away, and because I've never had a health issue I thought it was nothing," Lucci recalled. "And then the third time it happened, I was shopping for a birthday present for a girlfriend in a boutique and it was overwhelming. It felt like an elephant pressing on my chest." She added, "I sat down in the boutique to think what was going on, 'Could this be something? Oh no, I have way too many things I have to do. I can't do this,'" she shared. "But the manager of the boutique — I was so lucky — also had a degree in nursing. When she asked me how I was and I told her she was very calm and said, 'Susan, my car's right outside. I can drive you to St. Francis hospital,' which is the heart hospital near where I live in New York," Lucci continued. After getting test results back, she was shocked by the outcome. "It turns out I had a 90 percent blockage in my main artery and a 75 percent blockage in an adjacent artery, and so they told me the next day, 'You just avoided a widow-maker,'" she explained. "I didn't know! I had no idea."
Lucci Was 'Too Ashamed" at First to Tell People About her Health Issues
During the COVID lockdown, Lucci was one of the many who turned to food as a way of dealing with the troubling situation telling PEOPLE how she indulged in too much "comfort food" during the pandemic — "not my normal way of eating," she said, when she had another major health scare. Lucci experienced shortness of breath, chest and the jaw pain. She was apprehensive to call a doctor, although she had a history of heart disease and said, "I couldn't believe it," she said. "And after telling women for three years to not be afraid to call the doctor and to put themselves on their to-do list, I reverted back to all those things." It was discovered that Lucci had an 80 percent artery blockage — "this time caused by cholesterol — and inserted another stent in her heart to open the blockage after she was rushed to the cardiac catheterization lab." PEOPLE reported. "I almost wasn't going to speak about it, I was so ashamed of myself. But it's a reminder to be vigilant," Lucci told the outlet.
Lucci's Message for Women–"Pay Attention"
Lucci has had two heart surgeries in four years and has a message for women regarding their health, "put yourself on your to do list," she emphasized to ET. "And pay attention," she added. "You know, we think sometimes, 'Maybe they'll think I'm overreacting or being too dramatic. It can't be anything.' It's better to go to the hospital and get it checked out. They're glad you came." She also wants women to not think we're bothering anyone with seeking medical treatment. She recently told PEOPLE, '"Like most women, I thought, 'I have too much to do. It will go away.' I didn't want to bother the cardiologist," she said. "We take care of our children, we are advocates for our loved ones, but we're not at the top of our own to-do list."
How Lucci is Coping with the Recent Death of her Husband of 53 Years
A few weeks after her last operation, Lucci was dealt another blow. Her husband, Helmut Huber died at 84 years old. "After that, nothing seemed important, my health or anything else," Lucci admitted to PEOPLE. "I didn't care about anything else." She shared that health has been "a process, a journey." But today, "I feel good. I lost the love of my life and that's been awful, but I have friends who make me laugh and keep me out and about, and I'm determined to keep putting one foot in front of the other."