Heart Patient Urges Others Not to Ignore High Cholesterol

Cardiologist and Grateful Patient Discuss Coronary Artery Disease

(Joplin, MO) – Marilyn Alley is a former elementary school principal who wants others to learn from her experience with coronary artery disease (CAD).

“My parents both had high cholesterol but lived into their late 90s,” said Alley. “I was told I had high cholesterol when I was 26 and also at regular health screenings but I blew it off. People don’t listen to their bodies but should. I was tired, out of energy, and wasn’t sleeping well. I wasn’t listening to the extreme fatigue I was feeling.”

“Unusual shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, or a dramatic inability to do routine tasks should be investigated promptly,” said Dr. John Cox, Interventional Cardiologist with Freeman Health System.

Alley had previously seen Dr. Cox for a leaky heart valve but was ignoring the new signs of heart trouble. Finally, she went to see Dr. Cox who performed an EKG before rushing her to the catheterization lab to clear a clogged artery. Alley had a stent put in her left anterior descending (LAD) artery, and Dr. Cox used a balloon to open another artery.

“I would have had a widow-maker heart attack,” said Alley. “I never realized I felt so bad, but I feel so good now. I was ready to go home the next day and felt better than I had ever felt.”

Alley is going to cardiac rehabilitation and is now on cholesterol medication.

“Untreated high cholesterol certainly increases one’s chances of a serious obstruction in an artery,” said Dr. Cox. “However, diet, exercise, family history, diabetes, hypertension, tobacco use and obesity contribute a lot, as well.”

Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 360 thousand people in 2019. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about 18.2 million adults age 20 and older have CAD.

“Looking back there were little signs of trouble,” said Alley. “Foods didn’t agree with me that always had before. Things you don’t pay attention to. I didn’t want to, but I want to let people know, you need to listen to warnings about cholesterol and your blood work. And listen to your body.”

People can take a heart health assessment at freemanhealth.com/heart.

About Freeman Health System

Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2020, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2020. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 80 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com.


Lisa Olliges, Marketing & Media Relations Coordinator
Freeman Health System

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