Susan Lucci has a lot to be thankful for after almost losing her life, and the actress has a message for other women who may not be paying enough attention to their heart health.
The iconic TV star spoke with ET's Katie Krause at the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries' Summer 2019 TCA press tour event, where she reflected on undergoing emergency heart surgery last October.
"I don’t think I realized what an emergency it was until they told me what an emergency it was," said Lucci, 72, who also revealed that she now feels "fantastic."
"I had some mild pressure on my chest last October a couple of times and it went away, and because I’ve never had a health issue I thought it was nothing," Lucci recalled. "And then the third time it happened, I was shopping for a birthday present for a girlfriend in a boutique and it was overwhelming. It felt like an elephant pressing on my chest."
Lucci said she suddenly remembered hearing a someone on TV a year earlier talking about how the symptoms for heart attacks are often different for women and men, and it made her consider the possibility that she was suffering from a cardiac event.
"I sat down in the boutique to think what was going on, 'Could this be something? Oh no, I have way too many things I have to do. I can’t do this,'" she shared. "But the manager of the boutique -- I was so lucky -- also had a degree in nursing."
"When she asked me how I was and I told her she was very calm and said, 'Susan, my car's right outside. I can drive you to St. Francis hospital,' which is the heart hospital near where I live in New York," Lucci continued.
When she got to the hospital, she was treated by a "fabulous doctor" who met with her, ran some tests, and discovered just how close to tragedy she'd really been.
"It turns out I had a 90 percent blockage in my main artery and a 75 percent blockage in an adjacent artery, and so they told me the next day, 'You just avoided a widow-maker,'" she explained. "I didn’t know! I had no idea."
For Lucci, the main message she hopes women take away from her own story is "to put yourself on your to do list."
"And pay attention," she added. "You know, we think sometimes, 'Maybe they’ll think I’m overreacting or being too dramatic. It can’t be anything.' It's better to go to the hospital and get it checked out. They’re glad you came."
Over the last few months, Lucci has been working to recover, and she's added a lot of exciting projects to her plate, including three new TV movies for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, which are all currently in pre-production.
"It’s the first time that I’m acting as executive producer as well. So, I’ve been involved in the creative process since the very, very beginning," Lucci added. "I’m very excited!"
She'll also soon be celebrating her 50th anniversary with husband Helmut Huber, which she said is a truly "amazing" milestone.
"The number is huge but it’s gone quickly so I think that that’s a good sign," Lucci marveled, revealing that the pair have a big trip to Italy planned to commemorate the special occasion.
She shared some words of advice for other couples who hope to go the long haul with their loves.
"You have to be lucky, and I think keeping your sense of humor is a really good thing to do," Lucci shared. "And remember why you fell in love in the first place."