A widowmaker heart attack is a type of heart attack that is caused by a complete blockage of the left main artery or left anterior descending (LAD) artery. It’s also referred to as a chronic total obstruction (CTO). In this article, I will discuss the widowmaker heart attack including symptoms and treatment. The following are the widowmaker heart attack facts and the warning signs of a heart attack.
Widowmaker Heart Attack Facts
According to the National Institute of Health, the left anterior descending artery transports large amounts of fresh blood into your heart muscle so that the heart muscle gets the oxygen it needs to pump properly. When the artery blocks and there is no blood passing through, then your heart can quickly run out of oxygen and stop beating thus the widowmaker heart attack.
Most of the time the left anterior artery gets blocked up with plaque from cholesterol. This condition is referred to as atherosclerosis also known as the hardening of the arteries.
The plaque can cause blood clots that clog the artery. Sometimes the blood clots build up quickly and instantly lead to the complete blockage of the left anterior artery.
This is why this type of heart attack is called a widowmaker heart attack: because the outcome is usually grim when the left anterior descending artery is blocked. This is why it is called a widowmaker heart attack. A widowmaker heart attack usually occurs when there is a 100% blacked artery.
Signs and Symptoms of the Widow Maker Heart Attack.
The signs and symptoms of a widowmaker heart attack are almost the same as those of any type of heart attack thus you can’t tell when someone is experiencing a widowmaker heart attack from the outside.
- Chest pain or chest discomfort.
- You might experience squeezing, pressure, or fullness in the center of your chest. The discomfort might go away and then come back.
- You can experience upper body pain including shoulder and back pain.
- You might experience pain in your jaw, stomach, or neck.
- Shortness of breath. People have described it as feeling like an “elephant on the chest”.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cold sweats
- Stomach pain that feels like heartburn ( many women experience this symptom)
- Pain in your neck that feels like a pulled muscle
- Feeling like an impended doom
- Many women have these symptoms without having chest pain.
Causes of the Widowmaker Heart Attack.
Most heart attacks, including widowmakers, are a result of a combination of lifestyle and genetic reasons. Whereas cholesterol and fatty plaque block your arteries over time and prevent blood flow.
The causes include:
- Smoking and chewing tobacco
- Eating unhealthy foods such as a diet high in sugar and processed foods.
- Lack of exercise
- High blood pressure
- Family history
- High cholesterol
- Inflammatory diseases
Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)
The surgeon moves the blood through a new blood vessel around the blockage using a piece of a healthy artery or vein called an artery graft from other parts of your body like your leg, arm, or chest.
Risks of bypass surgery.
- Confusion or memory loss
- Abnormal heart rhythms.
- Kidney problems
- Heart attack
The surgeon threads a thin tube called a catheter through a small cut in your groin or arm and up a blood vessel to your heart. Then a tiny balloon is inserted into the blocked blood vessel and it is inflated to widen the vessel.
Risks of angioplasty include:
- Blood clots
- Re-narrowing of the arteries also known as restenosis
- Damaging the coronary artery
- Kidney problems
- Valve replacement-The doctor uses a healthy heart valve, usually from a human donor, pork tissue, or beef tissue to replace a blocked or unhealthy valve.
Your chances of Surviving the widowmaker heart attack are dependent on factors such as:
- How fast you receive treatment
- The treatment you received
- How your body responds to the treatment
- How your body reacts after the heart attack
Some of the medications given to treat a heart attack might include:
- Aspirin- aspirin reduces clotting and helps maintain blood flow in the artery
- Beta-Blocker- Beta-blockers will reduce the heart rate. Reducing the heart rate puts less stress on the heart.
- Nitroglycerin- Nitroglycerin will dilate the arteries. This accomplishes two things: it dilates the arteries which allows the blood to flow freely. Nitroglycerin also reduces chest pain.
- Thrombolytic- Thrombolytics are blood thinners. Blood thinners are used to clear blood clots blocking the artery.
- Anti-platelet medications- Aspirin and Plavix are considered anti-platelet medications.
- Ace inhibitors
Tips to Help Reduce Your Chances of Having A Widowmaker Heart Attack
- Quit smoking and quit using tobacco products
- Control your bad cholesterol
- Maintain normal blood pressure
- Maintain normal weight
- Exercise at least 3 times a week
- If you are a diabetic, control your glucose levels. Diabetes and heart disease are related.
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Reduce stress
If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, make sure to visit your doctor or a cardiologist regularly for physical exams. If you have any chest pains or signs of a heart attack, call 911.
My name is Phyllis Robinson MSN, RN. I have been a Registered Nurse for 27 years in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. I am passionate about cardiac care and heart disease. I also want this blog to be an educational tool that people can refer to for traditional and alternative treatment. I will blog on heart disorders such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and high cholesterol.
I received my Nursing degree from Baltimore Community College.
I went on to receive my Masters in Nursing from Walden University
I have worked for almost 30 years in Critical Care with a focus on heart health. I am an advocate of preventive healthcare.