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Peter Boyle talks about his heart attack

By Kat Carney
CNN Headline News

Within a week of his heart attack, Boyle was back on the set of "Everybody Loves Raymond" to film the last episode.

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(CNN) -- Since 1996, Emmy Award-winning actor Peter Boyle has been hard at work on the hit CBS sitcom, "Everybody Loves Raymond."

But when I sat down with him in Los Angeles, California, he described how what was supposed to be a "typical" day at work turned into a matter of life or death.

"On my way into work, I had this chest pain and I kept coughing," said Boyle. "I felt kind of pale and clammy and it just wouldn't stop. I didn't lose consciousness, and I didn't have any enormous pain. [It was] just this feeling that something was going on and I thought it would just pass. "

Boyle continued on his way to work, where an alert co-worker recognized the severity of the situation. "The A.D., assistant director, said you better sit down, I'm calling the medics, you are having a heart attack."

According to the American Heart Association, coronary heart disease is the nation's single leading cause of death. It says 1.1 million Americans will experience a heart attack this year, and more than 500,000 of them will not survive.

Like many heart attack victims, Boyle's initial reaction was denial. "I was going, 'No, no, no, not me. ... I'll be strong.' But I got help right away."

Emergency medical help was called and Boyle was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital where it was confirmed that he had suffered a heart attack. "I was in the hospital for about four or five days," he says. "Within a week I was back on the set and did a little bit in the last episode of 'Raymond', and it meant a lot to me to be able to get up and go back."

The American Heart Association says hypertension (high blood pressure) and excess weight can increase a person's risk of heart attack and stroke. These are issues Boyle has dealt with before. He suffered a stroke 13 years ago, and he has a family history of high blood pressure.

Since his recent heart attack, he's made several lifestyle changes, including watching his diet. "I'm much less inclined to do things that are high risk. I don't smoke or drink, and no fat or low fat is really important. And I walk, I do some light dumbbells, I do a lot of stretching and I have an exercise bike in my home."

As to whether his health problems were a wake-up call, Boyle said, "Well, I have had so many wake-up calls, but finally you wake up. I finally woke up."

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