Susan Lucci 'lucky to be alive' after emergency heart surgery

Susan Lucci is opening up about the emergency heart surgery she had last fall that may very well have saved her life.

The longtime "All My Children" star tells People magazine that she experienced shortness of breath three times last fall. She brushed off the first two instances, but the third time took place while she was shopping in Manhasset, New York and was so severe that she said, "It felt like an elephant pressing down on my chest."

Lucci was whisked to an emergency room, where a CT scan revealed she was having a heart attack, often referred to as a "widowmaker." There was a 90 percent blockage in her heart's main artery and a 70 percent blockage in another area, as well.

"Ninety percent blockage — I was shocked," Lucci says. "I'm lucky to be alive."

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Susan Lucci through the years
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Susan Lucci through the years
Susan Lucci during 7th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at NBC Studios in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
ALL MY CHILDREN - 1/17/79 Erica (Susan Lucci) dazzled Pine Valley with the opening of her disco, Erica's, on ABC Daytime's 'All My Children'. 'All My Children' airs Monday-Friday, 1-2 p.m., ET, on the ABC Television Network. AMC79 (Photo by Steve Fenn/ABC via Getty Images) SUSAN LUCCI
ALL MY CHILDREN - Erica and Tom's honeymoon - 9/6/78 On Sept. 6, 1978, Erica (Susan Lucci) married former football hero Tom Cudahy (Richard Shoberg) on the rebound from her failed affair with Nick Davis, on ABC Daytime's 'All My Children'. 'All My Children' airs Monday-Friday, 1-2 p.m., ET, on the ABC Television Network. 'All My Children' became the first daytime drama to journey beyond U.S. shores when the newlyweds honeymooned on the Caribbean island of St. Croix. AMC78 (Photo by Steve Fenn/ABC via Getty Images) SUSAN LUCCI, RICHARD SHOBERG
ALL MY CHILDREN - Erica and Tom's honeymoon - 9/6/78 On Sept. 6, 1978, Erica (Susan Lucci) married former football hero Tom Cudahy (Richard Shoberg) on the rebound from her failed affair with Nick Davis, on ABC Daytime's 'All My Children'. 'All My Children' airs Monday-Friday, 1-2 p.m., ET, on the ABC Television Network. 'All My Children' became the first daytime drama to journey beyond U.S. shores when the newlyweds honeymooned on the Caribbean island of St. Croix. AMC78 (Photo by Steve Fenn/ABC via Getty Images) SUSAN LUCCI, RICHARD SHOBERG
ALL MY CHILDREN - Susan Lucci gallery - 8/17/78 Susan Lucci plays Erica Kane on ABC Daytime's 'All My Children'. 'All My Children' airs Monday-Friday, 1-2 p.m., ET, on the ABC Television Network. AMC78 (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) SUSAN LUCCI
ALL MY CHILDREN - 5/14/73 Erica (Susan Lucci) was still married to Jeff when she began her affair with New York modeling agency head Jason Maxwell (John Devlin), on ABC Daytime's 'All My Children' (Monday-Friday, 1-2 p.m., ET). Maxwell was later found dead. AMC73 (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) JOHN DEVLIN, SUSAN LUCCI
ALL MY CHILDREN - 10/12/71 Erica (Susan Lucci) traded her boring life as Dr. Jeff Martin's (Charles Frank) wife with a modeling career, on ABC Daytime's 'All My Children'. 'All My Children' airs Monday-Friday, 1-2 p.m., ET, on the ABC Television Network. AMC71 (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) SUSAN LUCCI, CHARLES FRANK
ALL MY CHILDREN - 1982. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) SUSAN LUCCI
ALL MY CHILDREN - 3/24/82Erica's (Susan Lucci) modeling career fell apart when she was charged with the murder of her fiance, Kent Bogart (Lee Godart), on ABC Daytime's ALL MY CHILDREN (Monday-Friday, 1-2 p.m., ET). Kent died when Erica confronted him at gunpoint over his affair with Connie Wilkes. During a struggle, the gun went off, killing Kent. Erica was eventually cleared of all charges. AMC82(Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)SUSAN LUCCI, LEE GODART
LOVE BOAT - 'The Audition/The Groupies/Doc's Nephew' which aired on Novemeber 6, 1982. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) SUSAN LUCCI;TRISTAN ROGERS
ALL MY CHILDREN - 1983Susan Lucci, Maureen O'Sullivan in a scene on ABC Daytime's 'All My Children.' 'All My Children' airs Monday-Friday (1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. AMC83(Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)SUSAN LUCCI, MAUREEN O'SULLIVAN
FANTASY ISLAND - 'The Songwriter / Queen of the Soaps' - Airdate: January 22, 1983. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) SUSAN LUCCI
ALL MY CHILDREN - museum shoot - 2/22/83 Susan Lucci (Erica) modeled at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City on ABC Daytime's 'All My Children' airing Monday-Friday, 1-2 p.m., ET, on the ABC Television Network. AMC83 (Photo by Bob Sacha/ABC via Getty Images) SUSAN LUCCI
ALL MY CHILDREN - Adam and Erica's wedding - 3/12/84 Adam (David Canary) and Erica (Susan Lucci) were married on ABC Daytime's 'All My Children'. 'All My Children' airs Monday-Friday, 1-2 p.m., ET, on the ABC Television Network. AMC84 (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DAVID CANARY, SUSAN LUCCI
Susan Lucci (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
ALL MY CHILDREN - 1986. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) SUSAN LUCCI;STEVIE WONDER
Susan Lucci (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Susan Lucci during American Cinema Awards Rehearsals at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills Hotel, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Susan Lucci during 5th Annual American Cinema Awards at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
ALL MY CHILDREN - Erica's Men - 2/16/88 Erica (Susan Lucci) had an incredible dream in which she encountered nearly all the men in her past, on ABC Daytime's 'All My Children' (1-2 p.m., ET). 'All My Children' airs Monday-Friday, 1-2 p.m., ET on the ABC Television Network. AMC88 (Photo by Ann Limongello/ABC via Getty Images) SUSAN LUCCI
ALL MY CHILDREN - Susan Lucci and Walt Willey (Photo by Douglas Dubler/ABC via Getty Images)
Susan Lucci during Night of 100 Stars - May 5, 1990 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New york, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Actress Susan Lucci arrives with her husband, Helmet Huber for the 11th annual American Cinema Awards in Los Angeles November 2. Lucci was honored for her distinguished achievement in television on her 26th anniversary as the star of the daytime drama "All My Children."
CAPTION CORRECTION - CHANGING NAME OF SHOW Actress Susan Lucci, from the daytime show "All my children" poses for photographers as she arrives at the Daytime Emmy Awards show in New York City, May 17, 2002. REUTERS/Jeff Christensen
Soap Opera star Susan Lucci poses in front of a door painted with an image of Boy George as she arrives at the Rosie O'Donnell produced new musical Taboo, starring Boy George, November 13, 2003 in New York. REUTERS/Stephen Chernin SC/HB
Actress Susan Lucci holds a replica plaque during an unveiling ceremony honoring her with the 2,276th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California January 28, 2005. REUTERS/Jim Ruymen JR
Actress Susan Lucci , star of the daytime program "All My Children" poses with Muppets characters Elmo (L) and Oscar the Grouch as she arrives at the 33rd annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Hollywood, California April 28, 2006. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Actress Susan Lucci arrives at a National Italian American Foundation gala dinner in Washington October 13, 2007. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES)
Actress Susan Lucci smiles backstage at the 35th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at the Kodak theatre in Hollywood, California June 20, 2008. REUTERS/Phil McCarten (UNITED STATES)
Actress Susan Lucci arrives for the Heart's Truth Red Dress collection show at New York Fashion Week in New York, February 13, 2009. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES)
Actress Susan Lucci performs during the fashion show segment at the 36th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, August 30, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES ENTERTAINMENT IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Actress Susan Lucci, Grand Marshal of the Hollywood Christmas Parade, waves during the parade in Los Angeles November 29, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten (UNITED STATES ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
Cast member Susan Lucci (L) and creator Agnes Nixon from the soap opera series "All My Children" participate in a panel discussion at the Disney ABC winter 2010 Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California January 12, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
Actress Susan Lucci arrives at the Carousel of Hope Ball in Beverly Hills, California October 23, 2010. The ball benefits The Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
Actress Susan Lucci poses during a book signing for her book "All My Life: A Memoir" in New York March 29, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
Actor Shemar Moore (L) and actress Susan Lucci speak onstage during the 38th Annual Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards at the Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 19, 2011. REUTERS/Richard Brian (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
(L-R) Actress Joan Rivers, actress Susan Lucci, Ivanka Trump look at a cell phone before a showing of the Dennis Basso Fall/Winter 2012 collection during New York Fashion Week February 14, 2012. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES - Tags: FASHION ENTERTAINMENT)
Susan Lucci attends The Friars Club Roast of Betty White in New York May 16, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
Actress Susan Lucci arrives at the 39th Daytime Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills, California, June 23, 2012. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
Actress Susan Lucci arrives at the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 12th Annual "An Enduring Vision" benefit gala at Cipriani in New York October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
Actress Susan Lucci arrives for the premiere of "The Imitation Game" in New York, November 17, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: Actress Susan Lucci attends as the Elton John AIDS Foundation commemorates its 25th year and honors founder Sir Elton John during the New York Fall Gala at Cathedral of St. John the Divine on November 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: Actress Susan Lucci attends as the Elton John AIDS Foundation commemorates its 25th year and honors founder Sir Elton John during the New York Fall Gala at Cathedral of St. John the Divine on November 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)
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Her cardiologist, Holly Andersen, echoed that sentiment. "Had she gone home, that 90 percent blockage could have become 100 percent and she could have suffered a significant heart attack or even sudden death," she said.

At the hospital, Lucci had a pair of stents put into her arteries to increase blood flow back to the heart.

The procedure worked wonders for the Emmy Award-winning actress. "She has no damage," says Dr. Richard Shlofmitz, who performed the surgery. "Her heart is pumping as good as when she was born."

Lucci, 72, is now using her experience to educate others, which is particularly timely since February is American Heart Health Month. "I'm not a nurse or anyone who can help in any real way," she says. "This is the way I can help. I can tell my story. Everyone's symptoms are different but I felt compelled to share mine. Even if it's one person I help. That is someone's life."

The actress, who follows a Mediterranean diet to stay healthy, wants women to know they can have heart attacks, even though it may not be one of the health risks that come to mind for them.

"As a woman you think about breast cancer, not a heart attack," Lucci says. "Every EKG I had was great. My blood pressure was on the lower end of normal."

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Susan Lucci on Instagram
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Susan Lucci on Instagram
Is this what they mean when they wish you “may the wind be at your back”!? #catamaran
Are you sure you want me to fly the plane? Lol😊
Happy time with Helmut!!! Have a great weekend!!! #luckierinlovethanerica
ANDREA BOCELLI !!! Concert last night at MSG brought cheers and tears and awe! Spectacular guest performers, including Kristin Chenoweth—their duet brought the sold-out house down!!! #wow @andreabocelliofficial @kchenoweth
🎼’Tis the season...🎼Yuletide Ball tonight to benefit NYU/Winthrop Hospital—where both our children were born!!! Eternally grateful to wonderful doctors and nurses in first-rate NICU!!! #beautifulevent #winterwonderland #recordcrowd #greatband @nyu/winthrophospital
🎄🎼Deck the Halls...🎼🎄 The beautiful “halls” of Old Westbury Gardens last night—the perfect place to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season!!!🎄🎄🎄 #surroundedbybeauty #importantarchives #preservation
So honored!!! So happy to receive NATAS Silver Circle Award yesterday in NY—presented to me so beautifully by my friend I admire so much, Megyn Kelly!!! #inspiringwords #specialevent #gratitude @NATAS @thelambsclub
Sitting at Mark Twain’s card table!!! Amazing experience shooting an interview today at the landmark Players Club in NY!!! Stanford White designed home of Edwin Booth!!! #documentary #thankyousomuch@billylyons #myteacherwynnhandman#americanplacetheatre #haroldclurman
Join me on @BuzzFeedNews #AM2DM tomorrow! Can't wait to sit down with @theferocity. Watch live below at 10AM ET! buzzfeed.twitter.com #photocourtesyofpeoplemag
On the Red Carpet--fabulous Elton John AIDS Foundation benefit last night in NY! Magical at St John the Divine!!! @ejafdn
M-mmm blue skies, sunshine, crisp air and leaves putting on their gorgeous fall colors--what a perfect October Saturday in The Hampton's!!! #exhilerating #awesome #mothernature
Homeward bound!!! Whirlwind west coast/east coast/west coast/east coast--but so worth it!!! #greatshootinla #greatlatedinnerwithmyamazinggoddaughterkatie #somuchfun
PRESTON BAILEY masterpiece!!! Standing in front of his spectacular/magical full-size, working carousel--made completely of flowers!!! #breathtaking #feastfortheeyes #artistry #lasvegas @thewynnhotel
What a special Sunday afternoon!!! Our son Andreas' best friend, Alex and his wife Kiersten's beautiful baby George's Christening!!! Andreas is the proud and loving Godfather!!! George is an angel!!! ❤️😇❤️ Thank you, Courtney, for the gorgeous photos!!! @alexbarnet @kiersten_barnet @andreas1313 @holding_court
Next time Helmut walks The Highline--his knee is going to be good as new!!! Big thank you to surgeon, Dr Steve O'Brien at Hospital for Special Surgery in NY!!! And a big thank you to the entire team at HSS--from the moment we checked in at 6am to the moment Helmut was discharged yesterday afternoon--every single person made Helmut's operation as smooth and positive experience as it could possibly be!!! #gratitude @hspecialsurgery
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun--and so does the audience!!! Come join Christie Brinkley, Brooke Shields, Ali Wentworth, Mario Cantone and me for Celebrity Autobiography!!! We'll be on stage at Guild Hall in Easthampton this Friday night, August 25th at 7pm and 9:30pm--along with the creators of this hilarious show: Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel!!! #laugh-packed #ivanatrump #liztaylor #thekardashians @guild_hall
Picture-perfect day in NY--on my way in to one of my personal favorite NY destinations! #"sprinklemyashes" #quintessentialny #fashioncapital @bettyhalbreich @bergdorfs
M-mmm--Good morning coffee on this beautiful Sunday!!! Enjoy😍
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Lucci was susceptible to a heart attack because heart disease runs in her family. "Her risk was due to her father's arteriosclerosis, a condition that causes plaque buildup, which can cause blockage and hardening (or calcification) of the arteries," Andersen says.

Lucci has now signed on to serve as a spokesperson for the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign. The movement works to raise awareness about heart disease, a condition that kills approximately 400,000 women each year.

"We often put ourselves on the back burner," Lucci says. "But if your body is telling you something, [you] need to pay attention."

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