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Susan Lucci Reveals She's "Lucky To Be Alive" After Emergency Heart Procedure

Teresa Simmons

Susan Lucci, best known for her portrayal of Erica Kane on the long-running soap opera All My Children, just recently turned 72, but you wouldn't be able to tell.

"I always thought I had my mother’s genes,”  Lucci said of her mother, who is now 101 years old.

The Emmy winner rocks a bathing suit better than many people half her age, thanks to her wonderful exercise and diet regime.

Lucci does a daily Pilates workout and sticks to a Mediterranean diet, which is touted for its effectiveness in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

So nothing came more as a shock to Lucci than finding out that she was on the brink of death last October.

The actress had been experiencing frequent discomfort and pain in her chest, which she attributed to being tired and wearing her bra "too tightly."

She told herself that "it's nothing, it will go away," but then it happened again. This time, the pain was much more intense.

The actress was out shopping in Manhasset, Long Island when she felt "like an elephant pressing down on my chest."

The Tory Burch store manager drove her to a nearby hospital, where a CAT Scan revealed that her heart's main artery was 90 percent blocked, while another had 70 percent blockage.

“I didn’t realize how serious it was until I asked to go home and come back the next day for the procedure and my doctor said ‘You’re not leaving. You can have a heart attack at any time,'" Lucci recalled in a new interview with People.

Lucci was suffering from a condition known as "the widow maker." As you can probably tell from the name alone, this type of cardiac disease is almost always fatal if not treated on time.

Lucci was rushed to the operating room for an emergency procedure during which the doctor placed two stents in her arteries so the blood could flow to her heart.

The actress says she's "lucky to be alive," so she now wants to share her story to hopefully save another life.

"If it can happen to me, it can happen to a anyone," she admitted.

In the U.S., heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, with approximately 400,000 deaths per year.

While some people develop cardiovascular disease due to bad lifestyle habits, for others, including Lucci, it is genetic.

"My father had calcium build up in his arteries," Lucci explained. “It’s my DNA."

Lucci, who competed on Dancing With The Stars in 2008, probably did not experience heart problems earlier in life because her healthy lifestyle reduced her risk.

However, being the picture of good health doesn't mean you're actually healthy.

“What a person looks like on the outside doesn’t tell you what is going on in the inside,” said Dr. Richard Shlofmitz, Lucci's heart surgeon. “The most important piece of information is a person’s history and the history of your symptoms. Listen to your body.”

As a spokesperson for the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women campaign, Lucci is encouraging her fellow women to stop putting themselves "on the back burner."

"Put yourself on your to-do list," she advised.

We're so glad Lucci is doing well now!

Awa has been writing for Shared for 3 years. She is a serial snacker who unapologetically loves celebrity gossip. Drop her a line at awa@shared.com.