Widowmaker heart attack: All about the most dangerous type of heart attack

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Our health habits hitting a rock bottom is leading to an all new high for heart attacks. The amount of heart attack cases being observed in the recent past few years is mind boggling. Heart attacks used to be associated with old age but we are seeing an increasing number of cases where people aged less than 50 are suffering from heart attacks. It only makes sense to know all about this condition and opt for prevention techniques. In this article we are going to talk about widowmaker heart attack which is known as the most dangerous kind of heart attack.

What is a widowmaker heart attack?

As Healthydailytips reached out to Dr (Col) Manjinder Singh Sandhu, Principal Director-Cardiology & Cardiac Sciences, Max Hospital Gurugram, he explained that a widowmaker heart attack also known as a Left Main Coronary Artery (LMCA) Occlusion, is a severe form of heart attack that occurs when the main artery (Left Anterior Descending (LAD) artery) that supplies blood to the heart is blocked.

Within just a few seconds or minutes after the blockage forms, the heart muscle may become extremely weak, stop working or have electrical instability leading to arrhythmias. This condition is called a ‘widowmaker’ because it can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Beware of widowmaker heart attack! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Why is a widowmaker heart attack more dangerous?

“The LAD artery is a particularly dangerous place to get a clot because it serves such a big portion of the heart,” says Dr Sandhu. A lot of damage can be done to the heart muscle if blood flow isn’t restored quickly and that is why widowmaker heart attack is the most lethal among its kind.

According to some studies, widowmaker heart attacks lead to the highest increased risk of death and heart failure in comparison to other types of heart attacks.

Symptoms of a widowmaker heart attack

The symptoms of a widowmaker heart attack are similar to those of a regular heart attack, but they may be more severe. According to Dr Sandhu, some of the common symptoms include:

* Chest Pain/Heaviness (chest discomfort)
* Breathlessness
* Palpitations (rapid or irregular heartbeat)
* Fainting or sudden cardiac arrest
* Excessive sweating
* Vomiting
* Excruciating pain that radiates into the legs, back, neck or jaw.
* Cold sweat

Breathlessness is a symptom of widowmaker heart attack. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Also read: Is it a heart attack or heartburn? Here’s how to differentiate

Causes of widowmaker heart attack

The most common cause of a widowmaker heart attack is a buildup of plaque in the left main coronary artery. This plaque buildup can occur over time due to several factors, including:

1. High Cholesterol Levels: High levels of cholesterol in the blood can cause the formation of plaques in the arteries, including the left main coronary artery.

2. Smoking: Smoking damages the lining of the arteries, which can lead to the formation of plaques.

3. High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure can cause the arteries to become narrow and stiff, which increases the risk of plaque buildup.

4. Diabetes: Diabetes can damage the lining of the arteries and increase the risk of plaque formation.

Diabetes can be a cause of widowmaker heart attack. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Also read: Excess calcium buildup in coronary artery can even cause heart attack

Prevention of widowmaker heart attack

The doctor recommends that this heart attack can be prevented by controlling on the risk factors such as:

1. Keep a check on the BP, sugar and cholesterol levels
2. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grain and lean proteins
3. Avoid or quit smoking
4. Doing at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise per week
5. Reducing stress
6. Maintaining a moderate body weight

Treatment of widowmaker heart attack

The treatment of a widowmaker heart attack typically involves emergency medical care to open the blocked artery and restore blood flow to the heart. This can be done through:

1. Medications: A combination of medications, including antiplatelet drugs, thrombolytic drugs, and beta-blockers, may be used to dissolve the blood clot and prevent further clots from forming.

2. Angioplasty: This is a procedure that involves inserting a small tube (catheter) with a balloon at the tip into the blocked artery and inflating the balloon to open up the artery.

3. Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG): This is a surgery that involves rerouting blood flow around the blocked artery using a blood vessel from another part of the body.

Knowing the symptoms and risk factors associated with this condition can help reduce the risk of developing it. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeking medical attention promptly when experiencing symptoms, you can help protect your heart health and reduce the risk of a widowmaker heart attack.

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