Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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JEFFERSON, La. -- Friends of Stewart Sheng, the husband of Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng, say his death from heart disease was a shock, but his death can be a lesson to many of us in this area.

Fatal heart disease at 47 feels so young to us, but doctors understand why it happens.

'The younger age, the disease is more progressive,' said Dr. Gholam Ali of Tulane.

That progressive disease is the build-up of plaque in the blood vessels. It starts blocking your vessels around your second birthday.

The risk factors can be silent no exercise, too much fatty foods like red meat, frying, eating too much sugar starch and salt, rather than a diet high in fruits and vegetables, high blood pressure and cholesterol, stress and smoking. Mix that with a family or genetic history and diabetes found very late.

'That's important. If sugar was very high it means that damage done. All these play a big roll in the blockage of the artery over a long time,' Dr. Ali said.

And Katrina stress lives on.

'We saw a three-fold increase in the incidence of acute heart attack, which nationally is unheard of,' Dr. Ali said.

The doctor says if you suddenly feel shortness of breath or chest pain, jaw pain or maybe indigestion with it, you should immediately call 911 and then chew one adult aspirin or four baby aspirins that will keep the blood from clotting

But 25 percent of people get no warning signs, so changing your lifestyle now and a yearly physical are key because just a 60-70 percent blockage in an artery to the heart is trouble.

'It's a matter of minutes,' Dr. Ali said. 'Early diagnosis and we can save life.'

Visitation for Stewart Sheng is at Lake Lawn Friday evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday morning from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. The service begins at 11 a.m.

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