South Bend Mayor James Mueller suffers likely heart attack. Here's what we know.

·3 min read
South Bend Mayor James Mueller speaks in front of city employees and South Bend Common Council members in spring 2022.
South Bend Mayor James Mueller speaks in front of city employees and South Bend Common Council members in spring 2022.

SOUTH BEND — South Bend Mayor James Mueller underwent surgery Friday to place two stents in a main artery of his heart after doctors found blood flow was severely blocked, he said Tuesday.

Doctors at Memorial Hospital in downtown South Bend brought Mueller, who turned 40 last week, in Friday for a routine cardiovascular stress test. Such tests usually involve light physical activity to increase one's heart rate.

He was surprised to learn the doctors sought to investigate further based on his body's response to the test, he told the Tribune Tuesday during a phone interview.

A cardiac catheterization procedure performed immediately after the stress test revealed multiple blockages in his left anterior descending artery, he said. Full blockage of that artery, which supplies blood to the larger, front portion of the heart, causes the infamous "widow-maker" heart attacks.

Previously on Mueller: South Bend Mayor James Mueller recovering in hospital after unplanned surgery

The medical team placed two stents in the artery to ensure it stays open in the coming weeks before his mandated follow-up appointment. Mueller left the hospital Saturday and will work from his home near Leeper Park this week while he recovers. He expects to resume his normal work schedule this coming Monday.

"I never had shortness of breath or (pain in) the left arm," Mueller said. "I didn’t have the classic symptoms of a heart attack.

“In many ways, I'm feeling better than I have in many months," he added. "I've had some acid reflux things, and that kind of masked that there was anything going on with my cardiovascular system.”

In fact, a physical exam in early June had revealed the mayor's health had improved over the past few years, he said.

Doctors told him that because of his relatively young age, genetics could be responsible for his cardiovascular issues. He hasn't been a smoker, he said. He does eat the "American diet," he noted, but so do many 40-year-old men, most of whom don't suffer heart attacks until later in life, if at all, he said.

Heart disease kills about 659,000 people each year in the U.S., marking it the leading cause of death for people of most racial and ethnic groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the 805,000 heart attacks that happen annually, roughly one in five is "silent," meaning the damage is present but an individual doesn't know it.

Mueller was prescribed blood thinners for a year. In the short term, he is avoiding alcohol and caffeine while eating a low-sodium diet. He's also taking heed of doctors' orders to slow down this week, though he said he's anxious to resume his full mayoral schedule.

“Even though I’m feeling great, I’m not supposed to be doing anything too physically exerting," he said. "It’s kind of a weird thing, where you feel as good as you have for as many months, and doctors tell you to take it easy.”

The mayor's office will provide an update on Mueller's condition following his next appointment, he said.

Email South Bend Tribune city reporter Jordan Smith at JTsmith@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jordantsmith09

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: South Bend mayor James Mueller has heart issues at 40, genetics a focus