During Heart Month the focus is on prevention of the #1 killer of men and women, coronary artery disease, a process that is largely preventable and also reversible. I am energized that I am not alone on the platform of teaching as many persons as possible both the real risk of heart disease and the optimistic outlook of early detection and reversal. One of those I am honored to share the mission with is Victoria Dupuy. I am inspired by Victoria Dupuy and honored to call her me my friend. She has just been profiled in a moving interview on her passion for heart prevention. I wanted to share some further perspectives on the force of heart health that Victoria represents.
On September 23, 2013 Victoria received a phone call that her husband of 23 years and father of her two children, Dean, had died suddenly at age 46. That morning Dean had been a successful computer executive in Silicon Valley. His death came without warning, without known health risks, and without a family history of early heart disease. In fact, Dean had recently had his annual physical and was in excellent health. He was not overweight, did not smoke, and was physically active (a runner, mountain bike rider, hockey player, and skier) with normal blood pressure, and normal cholesterol.
When the Dean’s cause of death was revealed it was determined that even though Dean passed all of the benchmarks for a healthy body, there was a life-threatening level of plaque blocking the vital arteries of his heart. On the day that Dean died, without any signs or symptoms, the plaque in his heart ruptured — causing a sudden and, sadly, fatal heart attack that was the end result of a process likely building up for years.
Victoria began the difficult task of coming to terms with the sudden loss of her vibrant and healthy husband. She finally came to the point where she could read about heart disease. She wondered why Dean had not had any testing for this condition, the number one killer of men and women in the USA. She read about lab tests, stress tests, and particularly a CT scan of the heart called a Coronary Artery Calcium Scan (CACS). She watched a documentary called The Widowmaker that outlined the development of this test and how it could save lives. She spoke with Dean’s doctor, who told her that there was no standard screening for heart disease in someone that seemed low risk like Dean.
By the end of 2014 Victoria channeled her grief in the most positive way she could and founded No More Broken Hearts, a nonprofit 5013c corporation. The mission of No More Broken Hearts was to provide education and awareness that more routine use of the CACS could save lives, even in fit and asymptomatic patients like Dean. The test, which is a CT scan that does not require an IV or iodine contrast dye, takes under a minute, is inexpensive, and had been extensively researched right in San Francisco. It has been proven in hundreds of medical research studies to be the most accurate way to identify aging arteries long before heart attacks and death.
From the start, Victoria had a vision of where she wanted No More Broken Hearts to go. She spoke to experts, called me and invited me out to San Jose to speak at one of her annual fundraisers, and met with many corporate sponsors. Victoria asked why CACS was not as common as other screening tests like mammograms and colonoscopies used to prevent the loss of lives in asymptomatic persons. Why not make CACS the “mammogram of the heart”, mount a unit in a mobile unit, and bring it out to the public at workplaces and community events, and save lives.
On the 5th anniversary of her dear husband’s death, Victoria accomplished her dream of helping others and preventing heart attacks. A beautiful red bus, refurbished from a luxury cruiser, was introduced at a fundraiser. Boldly painted with the phrases “In A HeartBeat” Heart Health Program and “Know Your Score”, the mobile CACS unit is furnished with a state of the art heart CT scanner and will begin offering screening heart CTs to the public before the year is out.
Victoria is a true hero and a represents how the human spirit can suffer through an enormous loss yet recover with in a positive manner. When Victoria founded No More Broken Hearts 4 years ago she created a vision board with picture of a mobile CT scanner to prevent tragic heart deaths. Through her poise, passion, and energy, Victoria has succeeded where most others do not and a new era of bringing accurate diagnosis and prevention will certainly result in fewer broken hearts in the future.