"Sen. Sanders is conversing and in good spirits," a senior adviser said. "He will be resting up over the next few days"

By Adam Carlson Diane Herbst
October 02, 2019 11:45 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders is “in good spirits” but will pause campaigning while he recovers from a blocked artery discovered after he had chest pains on Tuesday night, PEOPLE confirms.

In a brief statement to reporters on Wednesday morning, a senior adviser said that the 78-year-old Sanders, one of the leading contenders to challenge President Donald Trump next year, had two stents inserted after doctors discovered the blockage.

“During a campaign event [Tuesday] evening, Sen. Sanders experienced some chest discomfort. Following medical evaluation and testing he was found to have a blockage in one artery and two stents were successfully inserted,” Jeff Weaver said in a statement.

Weaver continued: “Sen. Sanders is conversing and in good spirits. He will be resting up over the next few days.”

Sanders remained hospitalized in Las Vegas on Wednesday, The New York Times reported.

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He will not be doing campaign appearances or events “until further notice,” Weaver said in his statement.

The longtime Vermont lawmaker, who ran for president in 2016, remains in the upper tier of Democratic candidates for 2020, alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden.

The top 12 candidates will meet again for a debate on Oct. 15 in Ohio.

What to Know About Blocked Arteries & Stents

If an artery becomes completely blocked, it could turn into a heart attack, interventional cardiologist Ajay J. Kirtane, of NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center, tells PEOPLE.

“We don’t know if he did or not have a heart attack, but the assumption is that he didn’t based upon they didn’t report that yet,” says Dr. Kirtane, who is not involved with Sanders’ care. “It sounds like in this case that this may have been a partial blockage but severe enough to cause him to have new chest pain, which is why this was treated in the way it was treated.”

Stents hold an artery open and allow for normal blood flow again. Arteries typically become blocked due to a buildup of plaque, Kirtane adds, with someone in Sanders’ age bracket more at risk of heart disease.

“I think the key message for people out there is if you’re having chest pain that’s new, it’s really important to seek medical attention immediately,” he says.

Kirtane says it’s difficult to know the Senator’s probable prognosis. “But assuming he didn’t have a heart attack, then it’s a recovery of days to a couple of weeks,” he says. “And typically after a stent procedure, we tell patients they’re back to full level of activity at two weeks.”

Was there anything Sanders could have done to prevent this? “For every patient, it’s about eating right, not smoking, exercising as much as one can and then making sure that cholesterol is controlled, blood pressure’s controlled, diabetes is well controlled,” Kirtane says.

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