Doug Brocail hopes you take his advice to heart.

One day, the community-minded Astros reliever will likely get involved in formal efforts to educate the public about heart disease, similar to the way he assisted the Make-A-Wish program, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Padres Scholars program while pitching for years in San Diego.

For now, though, Brocail simply gives people advice drawn on personal experience. He cautions people not to ignore the warning signs.

On March 11, 2006, at age 38, Brocail underwent an angioplasty, a procedure in which a wire is threaded through the veins to clear a blocked heart artery. The lower anterior descending artery in his heart was 99 percent blocked. He considers it a rebirth.

"When your doctor tells you that it's only by the grace of God that you're here, you figure that you've got a new birthday," Brocail said. "We had heart disease in the family. I knew I had a cholesterol problem."

Brocail had four stents installed after the angioplasty, for the dual purposes of living a normal life and being able to continue to play baseball. He takes 26 pills a day.

He has simple advice: Do your due diligence. Have any abnormal feeling or pain in the chest or nearby extremities checked out. He explains that physicians will work backward from the worst-case scenario to rule out severe illness. Brocail, for example, had asthma as a child and originally thought his pain was related to that malady.

"Chest pains can come in all shapes and sizes," he said. "A chest pain isn't necessarily feeling a pain in the chest. It can be shortness of breath. It can be tightness of your chest. It can be a tingling in your chin, a pain when you sneeze going down your arm. It can be an ache on the back of your shoulder blade.

"If you have those symptoms, and you think something bad could happen, go get checked. I had the 'widow-maker.' They're supposed to find it in the autopsy. I was lucky enough where they didn't find it that way."

Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.