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New Device May Prevent Heart Attacks

Can technology serve as a guardian angel?

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in this country. But now a high tech device is being tested to stop heart attacks before they happen.

"Early Show" medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton sat down with "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith to explain the AngelMed Guardian system, a pacemaker-like device implanted in the chest that monitors electrical changes in the heart.

According to Ashton, more than a million Americans have a heart attack every year and sadly a third will die before they ever get to a hospital.

But doctors say chances of survival increase with every second saved in getting treatment.

Now a first alert system - like "Onstar" for the heart, could mean the difference between life and death.

In the middle of the night without warning, 42-year-old Lisa Holst had a massive heart attack.

"I had extreme nausea, my arms and legs got tingly," Holst explained.

A cardiac nurse educator, Lisa didn't recognize her own symptoms.

"I was gasping for air, I couldn't even explain what was going on," Holst added.

Her husband ran next door for help and an ambulance rushed her to the hospital.

"I believe I hold the park record for running barefoot and in underwear," joked Todd Holst.

Lisa is lucky to be alive, but with a family history of heart disease, she knew it could happen again.

"It really was a scary experience," said Lisa Holst.

A year ago, she became one of the first patients to be implanted with a pacemaker-like device that constantly monitors her heart's EKG or electrical activity. The device looks for changes that can occur even before a heart attack's first symptoms. If it notices any problems, a hand held unit sounds an alarm.

"To know that I have this little device, like my own little guardian angel telling me it really is your heart get help, it's very, very secure," said Lisa Holst.

Lisa is one of a hundred people so far who have tested this device, with many more being recruited for the nationwide trial. If all goes well, AngelMed could be on the market in the next couple of years.

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