Category: 

What Is a Widow Maker?

Most sufferers from a widow maker heart attack do not survive.
Article Details
  • Written By: Clara Kedrek
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
The CDC reported that eight foods, including peanuts and milk, account for 90% of food allergies.  more...

October 25 ,  1971 :  The United Nations expelled Taiwan and admitted China.  more...

The term "widow maker" refers to a specific type of heart attack that is known to have grave consequences. It is called this because those who suffer one often die, and the wives of affected men therefore often become widows. The condition is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel called the left anterior descending (LAD) artery, which normally supplies the muscle of the heart. Although patients who develop this condition can be treated, some develop heart failure or fatal heart arrhythmias despite these therapies.

In order for the heart to function properly, it needs to be supplied with sufficient amounts of fresh blood. A number of vessels, called the coronary arteries, provide the muscle of the heart with the energy and oxygen that it needs to survive. Different parts of the heart are supplied by different vessels; for example, the front wall of the heart is supplied by a blood vessel called the left anterior descending artery, and the bottom of the heart is supplied by the right coronary artery. If one of these blood vessels clogs up, a patient suffers from a heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, because the heart is not getting enough blood and cannot work properly.

Ad

Heart attacks can be caused by blockages in any of the different arteries supplying the heart. Stopping the flow of the LAD artery results in a symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, fainting, nausea, and vomiting. Patients develop these symptoms because the heart is not getting enough oxygen, and cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Blockage of this artery causes significant symptoms because it feeds blood to a chamber of the heart called the left ventricle, which is responsible for pumping the blood from the lungs and to the aorta, which distributes it to the rest of the body.

Many patients who experience a widow maker will have significant health problems as a result. Some patients develop acute heart failure and die because the rest of the body cannot be supplied with freshly oxygenated blood. Other patients develop heart arrhythmias, meaning that the heart does not pump in a coordinated fashion and is therefore ineffective. Although, in some cases, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can stop these arrhythmias, it is not always successful.

Treatment focuses on trying to restore the blood flow to the heart, and there are, generally, two different approaches towards achieving this. Patients can be given intravenous medications that break up blood clots. Alternatively, cardiologists can remove the clot by inserting a wire into the blood vessels supplying the muscle of the heart and open the clogged blood vessel back up.

When it comes to widow maker heart attacks, prevention of this often devastating condition is critical. Patients at risk are advised to eat low-fat diets, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking cigarettes. Those who are diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels should take medications to control these diseases. Diabetes mellitus is also considered a risk factor for this condition, and patients with this disease should work on controlling their blood glucose levels.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

anon960740
Post 10

The more I read on this, the scarier it is. I had the widow maker heart attack in June 2014. I'm a 53 year old male, good health, 5' 10", 175- 180. I'm an ex high school track star, scratch bowler. Non smoker, no drugs, rarely ever consume alcohol. No family history of heart disease.

I had just finished mowing my lawn when it struck. I had 95 percent blockage. I knew something was wrong because I was sweating like a pig, could not catch my breath, and when I went down to the ground, could not get back up. I called my neighbor on my cell which was in my pocket to come over because I thought I was having a heart attack, he was here in 5 seconds, he called 911 and they were here in like two minutes. The fire house is less than 1/2 mile away. They started working on me immediately and rushed me to the hospital 25 miles away. They already had the operating room prepped when I got there and took me directly in.

I had a double bypass which was successful, and because the medical services were so reactive and swift, I suffered no heart damage and expect a complete recovery in time. I feel blessed and had no ideal I was that close to death. I plan to do volunteer work at the hospital in the future to help other heart surgery patients that are recovering. Once I am well enough I plan to go to Michigan to see my granddaughter born in January whom I have not seen yet. Thank you God. --Gary S., Conyers, Georgia.

anon959839
Post 9

In February 2010, my brother-in-law had a heart attack and died at age 47. My wife, son and I drove cross country to get there as the snowstorm had grounded and delayed all air travel. After his funeral, we met up with some of my wife's family and learned that no male had lived past age 50 on their mother's side of the family.

Immediately when we got home, my wife underwent an electron beam tomography which found eleven blockages. She then had a stress test which found reduced blood flow to the front/bottom of her heart. Then, she had an angiogram and the doctors determined that all of the blockages were too many and too much for stents to be effective. She had a triple bypass and all three bypasses failed within four months. She went into heart failure and was admitted to a different hospital.

Fast forward four years, she has six stents, three of which are in the LADA and the first diagonal. She has another in the circumflex and then two in the RCA. This Wednesday, she is going in for another angiogram as the stress test last week did not show a good result and is pointing to problems in her LADA and diagonal.

If your family has heart disease, go and pay for an EBT. It's not usually covered by insurance, but it's the only sure-fire way without having an angiogram to know whether you have calcified plaque in your coronary arteries.

anon956882
Post 8

I just had a widowmaker heart attack with 100 percent blockage, and I was in a coma for three days. I am a 48 year old female. I had mildly high blood pressure, and slightly high cholesterol. I work out regularly and I am a little overweight -- 15-20 pounds. With my muscle tone, some people don't think I am overweight.

My husband found me, and could not wake me, and I was cold and blue. He called 911, and told my son to run downstairs to let the firemen in. They came in and shocked my heart, and got it beating again.

I also have been placed on the zoll defibrillator. am reading and reading, and looks like the survival rate is low, but also that after surviving this, you only average two to five more years. I have a 9 and 11 year old child, so I pray my life will be longer than predicted. I am glad to be alive, but I am very, very down from all of this.

anon956476
Post 7

I am 42 years old, and I had a widow maker heart attack while at the emergency room for an allergic reaction. I was rushed to a hospital that dealt with this. I was put directly on the cath table and had two stents put in. I was a smoker, high blood pressure, family history, and bad cholesterol. I had a guardian angel on my shoulder according to my doctor. I thank the good Lord every day that I was at the hospital already; the allergic reaction saved my life.

anon953306
Post 6

I am 46 years old, no history of high blood pressure, no diabetes, cholesterol fine. I was a smoker. I had a widowmaker heart attack with 100 percent blockage. I quit smoking.

anon359294
Post 5

Good luck to you Post 1. I have also had the widow maker with a whopping 99 percent blockage. I felt immediately better on the operating table when the stent was inserted. In total I've had three stents and just this past Friday I received another heart cath because of heart pain. It turned out I was blockage free and the other stents are doing well. -- Gary P.

anon346585
Post 3

Last Tuesday, I had a widowmaker. I am 54 years old. I knew something was wrong. I had a tight chest, sudden toothache, difficulty breathing, the cuticles on my fingers turned white, and I got to the hospital. I coded within three minutes of arrival.

Luckily, I was in a room full of cardio doctors and nurses. They pulled me back. I had 80 percent blockages. Since then I have had four angioplasties. I have always been active and in good shape. It was cigarettes that caused it. I am on the road to recovery now and thank God I am alive.

anon345559
Post 2

I'm recovering from a double bypass surgery. My widow maker artery was 95 percent blocked.

If you are having chest pains or any of those other symptoms mentioned, don't 'tough it out'. Go see a doctor.

anon344897
Post 1

I appreciate this article being posted very much. I am 49 years old and in July 2013, I suffered a massive "widow maker" heart attack with 100 percent blockage and had a 100 percent blood clot. The cardiologist told me if I hadn't gotten to the hospital when I did, I could have died in two hours. At this time I have EFF 35 percent and am wearing a Zoll Life Vest defibrillator. I am hoping for some good news at my next cardiologist visit. --Greg K., Deer Park, Texas

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email