TUESDAY, Aug. 6, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Former President George W. Bush underwent heart surgery Tuesday morning after an artery blockage was discovered during his annual physical.
Bush had a stent placed in an artery during the procedure, which was done at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. The procedure was successfully completed "without complications" and Bush was "in high spirits," according to a statement released by his office.
The blockage was discovered at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas on Monday and, following a recommendation by his doctors, Bush agreed to go ahead with the procedure.
The 67-year-old former president, known to be an avid outdoor enthusiast, is "eager to return home tomorrow and resume his normal schedule on Thursday," his office statement said.
"He is grateful to the skilled medical professionals who have cared for him. He thanks his family, friends, and fellow citizens for their prayers and well wishes. And he encourages us all to get our regular check-ups," the statement added.
CNN reported that Bush's annual exam in 2006 showed that he had no signs of hypertension or stroke, and had a "low" to "very low" coronary artery disease risk profile with an absence of modifiable risk factors.
The 2006 report also said he had "minimal/mild" coronary artery calcification, a common sign of early artery disease in which the lining of aortic wall becomes inflamed and plaque starts to build up over time, CNN added.
Tuesday's statement from Bush's office offered no details on the artery blockage that was discovered.
Heart experts were quick to echo Bush's reminder on getting regular check-ups.
Dr. Lawrence Phillips, an assistant professor in the Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said, "Heart disease can attack anyone. We know that by decreasing an individual's risk factors, we can significantly decrease the risk of developing coronary artery disease, a narrowing of the blood vessels that bring blood to the heart muscle. Risk factors that can be modified include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and stopping smoking."
He added, "Sometimes we are fooled to think that heart disease only impacts people who are overweight, eat unhealthy and have multiple medical problems. That is just not true. Our job in the medical community is to educate people to know their own risk factors, how to modify them, and when you need to have more of an evaluation."
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that Bush "underwent a stent implantation of his coronary artery due to an abnormal stress test."
She added, "Blockages of the artery, or atherosclerosis, develop from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, stress, sedentary lifestyle and family history. His job now will be to modify those risk factors to keep all of them in check."
And she said, "Lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise, will be a part of this regimen as well as medications. The stent allows for blood flow through the artery, but is not a cure for atherosclerosis. Although a relatively simple procedure, it is more like a Band-Aid then an overall solution. The next phase is prevention through healthy lifestyle choices, through diet, managing stress and continued exercise."
A stent is a small mesh tube used to treat narrow or weak arteries, which carry blood away from the heart to other parts of the body. According to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the stent is placed in an artery as part of a procedure called angioplasty. It helps support the inner wall of the artery in the months or years after angioplasty.
Heart procedures on blocked arteries include cardiac catheterizations and percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI), like angioplasty. And they are fairly common.
According to the American Heart Association, in 2010 alone, an estimated 492,000 patients, 67 percent of them men, underwent PCI procedures in the United States.
For more on stents, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.