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Pitcher's Death Have Others Talking About Risks Of Heart Disease

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RALEIGH, N.C. — As the shock of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile's death sinks in, many people wonder how someone so young can die from heart disease.

Raleigh cardiologist Dr. Robert Bruner said unfortunately it is not as rare as he would like it to be.

"It's not terribly unusual. We do see heart disease in people his age," he said.

According to a preliminary autopsy report, the 33-year old pitcher had 80 to 90 percent blockage in two of the three branches of the coronary artery. Atheroscleroris is the thickening or hardening of the arteries due to plaque buildup. The blockage reduces blood flow and can cause a heart attack.

Even though he was in good health, Kile did have at least one strike against him. His father died from a heart attack in his mid-forties.

"That's a very strong risk factor, especially when you have a first degree relative man less than 55 with premature heart disease," Bruner said.

Other risk factors include high cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, inactivity and smoking. While 60 to 70 percent of patients complain of chest pain, shortness of breath or fatique, atherosclerosis can be a silent killer.

"Approximately, a quarter of presentations of heart disease due to blocked arteries is sudden death," he said.