Heart Attacks Can Be Contagious

Grand Prairie couple has heart attacks on same day

Jim and Priscilla Russell of Grand Prairie, Tx share just about everything.

"Whenever you see one, you see the other,” Jim Russell said. “We support one another and it works out pretty good.”

Jim Russell is 79. His wife is 80.

In June 2002, he suffered a heart attack while mowing his lawn.

"And I fell down and fell backwards,” Jim Russell remembers.
His wife called an ambulance, and they rushed to the emergency room at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.

"We were just waiting to see what was going to happen,” Priscilla Russell said.

That's when she decided to take a break outside. She returned to the E.R. --as a patient.

"I blacked out for a little while," she said.

Doctors were still running tests on her husband.

"And they wheel her in," Jim Russell said.

Priscilla Russell also had a heart attack.

"I thought at first it can't get any worse,” he said. “And then I heard she was in here too and I said, 'Yes it can.'"

There aren't any statistics on how often longtime spouses have heart attacks right after each other.

But doctors say it's a lot more common than you might think.

Fifteen other couples are now in cardiac rehabilitation at the same Arlington hospital.

"I think the longer they've lived together, the more likely they are to have shared the same risk factors,” said cardiologist Dr. Richard Wray.

For example, he said, longtime married couples often eat the same food and share the same exercise and smoking habits.

Priscilla Russell has her own theory. She blames the stress from her husband's heart attack for contributing to hers.

"He caused it,” she said jokingly.

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