Widowmaker Can Be Fatal To Both Men And Women

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In spite of its nickname, the widowmaker heart attack doesn’t discriminate between men and women. It can be fatal to anyone, says interventional cardiologist J. Bradley Gibson, DO. In fact, it has the highest incidence of death among all types of heart attack.

How Is the Widowmaker Different?

Unlike other heart attacks, the widowmaker occurs from a 100 percent blockage in the left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery. “This artery supplies blood to the front wall of the heart, and supplies oxygen to the majority of heart tissue,” says Dr. Gibson. “When the artery becomes blocked, you’re cutting off blood and oxygen to a large portion of the heart. That’s why more people die from this type of heart attack than from others.”

What Are the Symptoms?

Like other heart attacks, the symptoms of a widowmaker are:

  • Chest pain
  • Chest pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness, sweating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Passing out, for some people

Why Is 911 Best?

Immediate medical care is crucial to survival. If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 911 immediately, because the faster you’re evaluated, the better your outcome. “You may think jumping in the car and driving to the Emergency Department will be quickest, but emergency medical technicians can begin treatment as soon as they arrive,” explains Dr. Gibson. “And they can transmit EKGs to the hospital so we’re fully prepared when you arrive.”

Some studies indicate the mortality rate for widowmakers is more than 70 percent, says Dr. Gibson. “But with adequate medical care and advancements in medical therapy, we can decrease that to less than 10 percent.”

How Can It Be Avoided?

Heart attacks, including the widowmaker, are becoming more common among younger adults. “It’s not just old people anymore,” says Dr. Gibson. Yet you can decrease your chances of any heart attack by:

One tool now available to doctors is a quick, painless test called coronary calcium scoring, (or Heart CT) which determines the likelihood that you have blockages in your arteries. “Although the test doesn’t indicate the severity of blockages, it does provide a really good indication of where a blockage may be located,” says Dr. Gibson. Armed with that information, your doctor can treat you accordingly.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.