The remarkable part of his story is this: By all other accounts, Alex Miller was healthy when he had a 99% blockage in his heart.

32 at the time, Alex was experiencing heartburn-esque symptoms fairly frequently. “Older people always talk about how bad heartburn is,” he remembers. “And I was like, ‘they weren’t kidding, this is the real deal’.”

Alex relayed the symptoms to his primary care doctor who gave him prescriptions for GERD, a chronic form of heartburn. And Alex didn’t bat an eye: “It never crossed my mind that it could’ve been anything else.”

A Perfect Storm

Alex and Brittany Miller founded White Gloved Vegan, a brand that advocates for plant-based eating, after Alex developed heart disease at 32. 

Alex was moving a small trailer up a hill when it happened. “I got a piercing feeling in my throat, but couldn’t let go of the trailer because of the incline,” he recalls. “I was all alone.”

Then everything went dark, and Alex says when he came to, he didn’t know who or where he was.

Convinced it was more than just heartburn, Alex drove himself to the Mercy Hospital of Buffalo ER. Upon admission, his blood pressure was checked, an EKG performed, even an enzyme test to detect a heart attack. “There were no red flags,” Alex says. “It was a perfect storm.”

Yet one surgeon in particular listened to Alex’s story, and decided not to risk anything. The surgeon was Dr. Ali Masud, cardiologist in the Heart Center at Mercy.

Dr. Masud performed an angiogram, a diagnostic test that allows doctors to see blood vessels by injecting a radioactive dye into the bloodstream. As it’s not a major procedure, most patients remain awake for it.

“When I came into the ER that day, I looked like I was healthy and in shape,” Alex says. “Then, all of a sudden, you could hear a pin drop in that OR.” 

Alex needed immediate surgery to remove a 99% blockage in his LAD artery, one of the heart’s main suppliers of blood. A fully-blocked LAD is known as a “widow maker” heart attack due to its poor prognosis. 

“It’s a miracle you survived this long with such a major blockage,” Dr. Masud later told Alex. 

Listen to Your Heart

After placing a stent in Alex’s heart, Dr. Masud gave him advice that Alex says changed his life: Eat as a cow does. Meaning, Alex should eat as green as possible, focusing on adopting a plant-based lifestyle. 

Ali Masud, MD

Ali Masud, MD

Dr. Masud, a cardiologist at Mercy Hospital, gave Alex the advice to “try and eat as a cow does.” 

Today, Alex and his wife, Brittany, are the founders and creators of White Gloved Vegan, a locally-based blog and social media brand that promote the health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.

“That’s not necessarily saying that the root cause of my condition was diet,” Alex says. “If it’s genetics, that’s one thing. But I have power over what I feed myself, and if that’s something that tips the scale, then…”

The Way Forward

What struck me the most about this story is that Alex essentially saved his own life. How he did so was fairly simple: by trusting how he felt, and advocating for his symptoms. “As smart as doctors are, they can’t feel what you’re feeling,” he says.

Brittany echoed his sentiment: “If I could, I’d tell more people to look for second opinions. And really tune into how you feel.” 

Though Alex says he believed himself to be one in a million, his situation unfortunately didn’t seem uncommon. The truth is, many serious health conditions are becoming more prevalent in younger people.

Alex and Brittany are newlyweds who speak openly about the benefits of plant-based eating to more than 18,000 Instagram followers. 

And as frightening as that is, the experience made Alex and Brittany have faith in a new generation of doctors as well. “Dr. Masud really changed my life,” Alex says. “Something that’s pretty positive came out of this horrible experience, and eased the bitterness of it.” 

Discuss Your Heart Health
with a Cardiologist
Call (716) 706-2113

Discuss Your Heart Health
with a Cardiologist
Call (716) 706-2113