By Marybel Rodriguez

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about heart health. It is a message close to the heart of 65-year-old Jackie Clark, literally.

Clark has a lot to live for.

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“I have a brand new granddaughter and a grandson and I want to be here for them,” she said.

Jackie is happy and healthy now, but just a few years ago, her life was turned upside when she was told she had a severe heart condition and time was of the essence.

“He said, ‘I need to meet your family, I need to talk with them because there are things we need to discuss. You need to have emergency surgery.’” Clark recalled.

Jackie had high blood pressure and hypertension, which lead to an enlarged heart and abnormal heart contractions that if left untreated, could have led to sudden death.  It was quite a shock because she had no symptoms and felt great.

“He said he couldn’t believe what he was hearing in my heart. It wasn’t beating at all,” said Clark.

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Her primary doctor then sent her to see specialist Dr. Arnoux Blanchard, a cardiologist at Broward Health Medical Center.

“Cardiovascular disease hypertension is a significant part of this disease and is very common in the community and particular in the black community,” explained Dr. Blanchard.

Jackie underwent a heart procedure where a defibrillator was implanted. It’s a small battery operated device placed in the chest to monitor irregular heartbeats and kicks in, if needed.

Defibrillator implant. (CBS4)

“All of us say we trust in God. That was the time I really had to trust him and I did.  I didn’t even know I had surgery that’s how smooth it was. The scar so small you can’t even see it,” said Clark.

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure hypertension in African Americans in the U.S. is among the highest in the world.

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Jackie underwent the procedure in 2017 and feels great.  Her advice to everyone, especially the African American community, is watch what you eat, exercise and get your annual checkups.

Marybel Rodriguez