THE BIG COUNTRY, Texas (KRBC) – Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, in the United States.

There are several risks to having heart disease that cannot be modified, like family history and age.

KRBC spoke with an interventional cardiologist at Abilene Regional Medical Center, who shared his expertise on heart disease. Dr. David McCain explained that things like cholesterol, exercise and to quit smoking are habits that can be modified. Someone experiencing a heart attack will usually have chest pain, typically a pressing dull, aching pain. The pain can also radiate and go into your arm or neck.

When it comes to assisting those who are in rural areas, the response time may be much longer, versus living in an urban area.

“It’s usually a relatively rapid onset. It’s not like, ‘Hey, I’m working two jobs-taking care of five kids-type of thing. It’s all of a sudden, they’ll come in and they’ll say, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong, I’m not doing anything different. I’m just much more fatigue,” Dr. McCain said.

If you are waiting paramedics while someone is showing signs of a heart attack, experts advise you to calm the person down, tell them to sit down and give them an aspirin until they are able to reach proper medical care.

In cases like a heart attack, rural hospitals are used as an initial location before being flown out to a second facility.

A 2017 study shows that patients in rural America can wait up to 30 minutes for EMS to arrive after calling 9-1-1. This is much longer than the average time of seven minutes. A rural hospital in Comanche is working to create new ways for helping its community.

“There’s a golden hour as far as treating any kind of heart attack or stroke. You really want to keep that under an hour. The faster, the better; Thirty-minutes, hopefully,” Family nurse practitioner Rachel Hilliard said.

Hilliard, along with other staff members at Comanche County Medical Center work as quickly as they can to get patients in and out their doors.

“We have excellent physicians here, in our emergency room that can stabilize them,” Rachel Hilliard, NP said.

However, if you have suffered something like a heart attack, the rural hospital follows standard procedures to fly you to the nearest hospital for additional care.

“If they have to drive 45 minutes to an emergency room first, well, we could have had them stabilized, and that what makes us so important to be here,” Rachel Hilliard, NP said. “We want to get you there because they may be able to stent you. We send a lot of people to Abilene. Probably most of our cardiac goes to Abilene.”

In order to try and avoid this sticky situation, Hilliard is working to promote health in her area!

“You have to get healthy to lose weight, instead of losing weight to get healthy,” she said.

The program has just started and is free to all who join.

People who are involved are able to come to these classes at no charge and their also able to use our wellness center. Hilliard said there is one in Comanche, one in Deleon and of course, one at Comanche County Medical Center.

“We do a once a week class for approximately and that is just teaching people how to eat healthy, exercise more, get fit,” she said.

Proactive life coaches are included.

“We try to get them to get 150 minutes of exercise in a week. They keep a food log, they keep a activity log,” she said.

“They’re informative. Rachel just has made them just a lot of fun and so helpful. I’m learning things that I didn’t know,” heart attack survivor and pharmacist, Deborah Huebner said.

Hueber suffered a heart attack in August 2017.

“The day that I had my heart attack, my chance of having another heart attack or a stroke went sky high,” Huebner said.

She explained that this program is allowing her to stay on the right track of getting to the healthy side.

“We’re getting into our second week and I’m so excited, especially for me, because you would think that I would be on track, taking care of myself, but I need to be reminded to not put my needs on the back burner,” Huebner said.

Glasses are on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. The classes generally last about an hour.