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Dick Cheney's Heart: Is it Working?

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Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Nov. 16, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. (Getty) Getty Images/Tom Pennington

(CBS/AP) Dick Cheney's heart is running on batteries and he might need a replacement.

On Tuesday, the former Vice President told NBC, "I'll have to make a decision at some point whether I want to go for a transplant," adding "the technology is getting better and better." He also said he has been making do with a battery-powered heart pump which makes it "awkward to walk around."

It's been a tough go for the 69-year-old. who was once a heart beat away from the presidency.

He suffered a heart attack last year, his fifth since the age of 37. He had bypass surgery in 1988, as well as two subsequent angioplasties to clear narrowed coronary arteries.

In 2001, he had a special pacemaker implanted in his chest. In 2008, doctors shocked his heart to restore its normal rhythm. That was the second time in less than a year that he had experienced and been treated for an atrial fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm involving the upper chambers of the heart.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America, claiming more than 600,000 lives in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There are more than 1 million heart attacks each year. Inactivity, obesity,  high blood pressure and cigarette smoking are key risk factors.

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