Barton, 50, went to fitness boot camp three days a week before the incident. He doesn’t smoke, watches his diet and takes vitamins, multivitamins and fish oil supplements. The only alcohol he drinks is red wine, which some studies have shown to have heart benefits.
“My friends and everybody that I work with all said the same thing — ‘You are the last person we would expect to wind up in the hospital with a major heart attack,’” Barton said.
October 25 began as a normal one for Barton. He went to work at Scott Crump Toyota and then to a meeting of the Jasper Rotary Club.
On his way back to the office, Barton began having a pain in his left arm.
Scott Crump suggested that he visit the local urgent care clinic, but Barton decided to make an appointment with an a cardiologist instead.
Later that afternoon, the pain in Barton’s arm returned. A co-worker drove him to Urgent Care Northwest.
Barton started sweating shortly after his vital signs were taken. An EKG showed that he was in the middle of a heart attack.
Less than two hours later, Barton was in a room at Walker Baptist Medical Center recuperating from angioplasty.
“I had 100 percent blockage in the main artery down the back side of the heart, the one they call ‘the widow maker,’” Barton said.
Barton’s cardiologist told him that his heart was healthy. His artery had been temporarily blocked by a mass of platelets, not plaque.
“It was just genetics,” Barton said.
Barton’s heart sustained no permanent damage. He was back in his position as Toyota’s general manager within a month of the incident and hopes to return to fitness boot camp soon.
Barton said having a heart attack hasn’t discouraged him from taking the steps he knows are necessary for good heart health.
“If I hadn’t been doing those things, I probably wouldn’t be here today. Exercising and eating right don’t always stop a heart attack, but if it does occur, you’ll be able to withstand it and get through it much better,” Barton said.
Renae McKinney, director of community relations at WBMC, said local residents who are concerned about their risk for cardiovascular disease should take advantage of Baptist Health System’s HeartAware program.
A quick, confidential assessment is available at www.beheartaware.com. Participants who are identified as being at risk for heart disease then qualify for a follow-up appointment at WBMC.
The free HeartAware screening includes blood pressure measurement, a finger-stick blood test to measure cholesterol and glucose, weight and body mass index and other tests to help identify and prevent heart disease.
“It’s a wonderful service that we provide to the community. For those who find that they require additional care, we have a lot of great physicians who are able to help them monitor their health,” McKinney said.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Many of its risk factors, such as high cholesterol and obesity, are largely preventable.
Andrea Sparks, an MRI technician and HeartAware screener at WBMC, said the problem is that too few people make the health of their heart a priority.
“There’s so much going on in our lives with jobs and family. We often don’t take time to prevent something that could be life-threatening,” Sparks said.