Susan Lucci, 72, Picks Herself Up with a Smile After Fall on American Heart Association Runway

Susan Lucci handled a catwalk snafu the way she handles everything in life: with grace.

The legendary soap-opera star took a tumble Thursday night while modeling in a show for The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Red Dress Collection 2019.

Walking in a red strapless hand-draped matte lasse ballgown by Rubin Singer, Lucci fell on the runway and landed on her bottom.

Not looking the least bit embarrassed, the 72-year-old actress laughed before returning to a standing position and walking down the rest of the runway.

Lucci is a national volunteer and spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, following her emergency heart surgery this past fall.

In October, she underwent a CT scan which revealed 90 percent blockage in the heart’s main artery, often called “the widow maker,” and 70 percent blockage in another branch. Her doctor inserted two stents into her arteries to increase blood flow back to the heart.

Following her harrowing experience, the 41-year veteran of All My Children is now using her heart and her voice to raise awareness. “We often put ourselves on the back burner. But if your body is telling you something, we need to pay attention,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

RELATED VIDEO: Candice Swanepoel Relives a Really Embarrassing Runway Fall

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women today, killing approximately 400,000 women a year, according to the latest statistics from the American Heart Association.

But Lucci, long devoted to a daily Pilates workout and a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, was unaware that her father’s heart disease meant she was also at risk (Victor Lucci had suffered a heart attack in his late 40s).

“I always thought I had my mother’s genes,” Lucci says of her mother, Jeanette, who’s now 101 years old.

But as with all women, Lucci was not immune to her family history. “My father had calcium build up in his arteries,” says Lucci. “It’s my DNA.”

Now Lucci is focused on making a difference. “I want to do some good with what I’ve been through,” Lucci shares with PEOPLE. “If I can help in any real way, I want to. Everyone’s symptoms are different but I felt compelled to share mine. Even if it’s one person I help, that’s someone’s life.”

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