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Widow Maker Heart Attack - Causes, Symptoms, Management, and Prevention

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A widowmaker heart attack is a type of heart attack that occurs due to blockage of the biggest artery of the heart.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq

Published At February 1, 2024
Reviewed AtFebruary 9, 2024

Introduction:

A heart attack occurs when sufficient blood flow is unavailable for the heart muscle. A widowmaker heart attack can be observed when there is a blockage of the biggest artery in the heart. When there is a blockage in the left anterior descending artery, almost 50% of the blood supply for the heart muscles is stopped. This condition is crucial and must be treated immediately.

What Is Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart is reduced or completely blocked. In this condition, the artery that supplies oxygen and blood to the heart is blocked. Plaques usually form in the artery due to fat and cholesterol deposits over time. This gets ruptured and forms a blood clot. These blood clots can block the artery, resulting in a heart attack.

A heart attack is also known as a myocardial infarction. In such conditions, the tissue present in the heart muscle may die due to a lack of blood flow or supply. Coronary artery disease is considered the leading cause of heart attacks. Other causes considered less common include severe spasms or sudden contractions of a coronary artery, causing a stoppage of blood flow to the heart muscle.

Heart attacks must be attended to to save lives immediately. According to the American Heart Association, every 40 seconds, an individual has a heart attack in the United States. Any heart attack can be considered dangerous.

What Is a Widow Maker Heart Attack?

A widow-maker heart attack is a type of heart attack. In such cases, the left anterior descending (LAD) artery will be blocked entirely or almost entirely. This type is considered a massive heart attack.

The blockage in the LAD artery stops the blood flow to the left side of the heart. This causes the heart to stop beating normally. This may result in cardiac arrest. This may lead to a brain injury and an irregular heartbeat.

The blockages may be seen in other arteries in the heart, but blockages always affect the LAD artery the most. The extent of blockage may range from 1% to 100%. This condition is life-threatening because the LAD artery supplies blood to 50% of the heart muscles.

This condition is commonly seen among males, but females are affected too.

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of the Widow Maker Heart Attack?

The most severe causes of widowmaker heart attack include

This condition may be expected among men. However, it may be seen among women.

The risk of this condition may increase when

  • Men are 45 years old and older.

  • Women of age 50 and above.

  • Family history of heart disease.

  • Those who consume poor, nutritious food.

  • Individuals who use tobacco products.

  • Those who do not practice physical exercises.

  • Those who suffer from some medical conditions.

  • Those with uncontrolled diabetes.

  • Individuals who are obese.

What Are the Symptoms of a Widow Maker Heart Attack?

Symptoms of a widowmaker heart attack include

  • Chest pain.

  • Pain in the arms, neck, back, and jaw.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Nausea.

  • Dizziness.

  • Lightheadedness.

  • Fatigue.

  • Stomach upset.

  • Cold sweat.

Symptoms may vary depending on the gender affected. Chest pain is observed among both men and women. Some women may show symptoms like shortness of breath or nausea.

How to Diagnose Widow Maker Heart Attack?

The following tests help identify the condition called widowmaker heart attack.

  • Electrocardiogram.

  • Echocardiogram.

  • Blood tests.

  • Chest X-ray.

  • Coronary angiogram.

  • Cardiac computed tomography.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging of the heart.

  • Nuclear heart scan.

How to Treat Widow Maker Heart Attack?

The individual affected by a widow maker heart attack may survive if the treatment starts quickly. If the doctors in the emergency room treat them within 90 minutes after the attack, they may survive. They try to unblock the artery so that blood flow is established. Regaining the blood flow helps prevent the scars on the heart.

Treatment options include

  • Oxygen mask.

  • Medicines are given to treat pain, blood clots, or abnormal heart rhythms.

Angioplasty: This procedure creates more space inside the artery with plaque buildup. A tiny balloon is used to force the plaque against the artery wall.

Stent: A stent is a metal tube that can help the artery open and allow good blood flow. Stents may be used to keep the arteries open after the angioplasty. This is done to avoid the possible blockage of arteries after the angioplasty.

Heart Surgery: This type of surgery is indicated when the blockage occurs in three or more coronary arteries. This is done to establish blood flow to the heart and can be done by using blood vessels from other parts of the body to create detours around the blockages.

What Are the Complications of Treatment?

Complications of treatment include

Bleeding: Some medications used for the treatment of widowmaker heart attack may cause

bleeding.

Blood Clots: Individuals who receive a stent as a treatment may have to take medicines to prevent blood clots.

Stroke: Heart surgery performed as a treatment may have a risk for stroke, another heart attack, or even death.

How to Prevent Widow Maker Heart Attack?

Preventive measures help prevent a heart attack.

These include

  • Foods that do not contain saturated fats.

  • By limiting sugar intake.

  • By treating high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

  • The use of tobacco products should be avoided.

  • Practicing regular exercises for 150 minutes per week.

  • Maintaining the ideal weight of the body.

Conclusion:

A widowmaker's heart attack is a type of heart attack that has to be considered serious. It should be attended to as early as possible. If warning signs are neglected, and emergency treatment is not provided, it may lead to death. Hence, it becomes important to know about widowmaker heart attacks, their causes, symptoms, management, and preventive measures.

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Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq
Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq

Cardiology

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