Nightly News   |  August 06, 2013

How heart trouble can occur, despite being fit

A routine medical exam found former President George W. Bush had a blockage in one of the arteries of his heart, even though he did not have symptoms according to NBC News sources. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening, brian is off tonight. i'm lester holt .

>>> former president george w. bush is hospitalized tonight recovering from a procedure to opened up a blocked artery in his heart. doctors discovered the blockage during a routine exam and placed a stent in the artery. it's a pretty common procedure. performed thousands of times each year in the country. still, the news caught a lot ofs offguard. the 67-year-old former president is always known for being quite fit. his diagnosis has put the spotlight on the limits of a healthy lifestyle when it comes to a healthy heart. our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman starts us off.

>> reporter: when he was in office, president bush 's medical team declared him to be in the superior fitness category. with low blood pressure and low cholesterol levels.

>> i had my physical. i'm feeling pretty good.

>> reporter: even after leaving office, he's continued to maintain an active exercise regiment.

>> it doesn't take much time to stay fit. 30 minutes , five days a week.

>> reporter: sources tell nbc news he was not having symptoms. the findings prompted doctors at texas health presbyterian hospital to insert a stent . metal scaffolding placed into an artery, it restores blood flow and prevents a heart attack . more than half a million stent procedures are done every year. twice as many men than women will get a stent . it's hard to increasingly recognize heart disease in women, that procedure could go up. the patients are usually prescribed blood thinners. with no previous heart trouble , experts say president bush 's recovery should be straightforward.

>> following stent procedure, no patients go back to normal daily activity. most go back to work in two to three days and able to fully resume their lifestyle.

>> the president is expected to go home tomorrow. this afternoon, his daughter jenna bush hager tweeted a favorite family photo. he's well and we're eager for him to return to grandpa duty. general guidelines do not call for a patient to get a stent unless there are symptoms like jaw or chest pain. shortness of breath or lightheadedness. expected for the president to go home tomorrow. all signs are full steam ahead.

>> it's mildly discouraging. what does this say to the rest of us who adopted a healthy lifestyle. are we still paying for those cheeseburgers of our youth?

>> exactly. we really are what we eat. so the cheeseburgers of our life catch up to us. what can you do, while the stent may stop the progression of heart disease ? if you're serious about turning around, getting back to the basics, don't smoke. adopt a very low fat diet . increase your aerobic exercise . and if you have to be on a staten, your doctor has recommended it, that's still the best way to bring the cholesterol down. it's all of those things to make up for what we did. when the american diet went down hill.

>> dr. nancy, thank you. you.