First of all, the widowmaker heart attack is nothing more than a nickname that is used to call a stenotic left coronary artery or a proximal left anterior descending coronary artery.
It is a very serious condition. If the artery gets occluded completely and all at once then you’ll be having a massive heart condition which is very likely to lead to a case of sudden death.
The Widowmaker Heart Attack Causes
The blockage that occurs in the artery is due to a great number of platelets that move to a place where a cholesterol plaque has been ruptured. The problem is that even when we’re talking about a really small number of plaque that gets to this area can cause sudden death. It’s still a topic that’s pretty much under investigation and the causes for the rupture are still rather unknown.
Even though preventing the heart attack won’t be possible, what it’s possible is to bypass the blockages (or in some cases, using angioplasty, open those blockages up) and that will allow to fix the problem.
The Widowmaker Heart Attack and Survival
Starting from the moment that the widowmaker heart attack first hits you, the time one can survive can go anywhere from just some minutes to several hours depending on the severity of the condition. The symptoms will start to appear and become unbearable really fast allow for you to know that something is wrong and that you need immediate emergency medical attention.
These symptoms are the same that you would be able to find in a case of regular cardiac arrest (the symptoms are due to the lack of the blood flow, not because of anything more specific than than) and will include nausea, jaw pain, tightness in chest, very irregular heart beat (the heart will try to pump the blood as it should even in these conditions), pain in the heart and others. You can read some more about the symptoms in the Heart Attack Symptoms article we have up. However, unlike the regular attack (from other conditions), this time it’s a lot easier to determine that it’s a widowmaker heart attack due to the progress of the symptoms. Even if at first it could seem like food poisoning or flu, the symptoms will rapidly intensify and alert you.
One misconception is that the death is instantaneous. As we’ve mentioned before, it can take anywhere from minutes to hours for the symptoms to start affecting you and will only induce cardiac arrest when there’s been anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes with no circulation at all.
If the treatment is fast enough, it’s possible for the victim to survive for a while with just the oxygen that is still in the blood. This is a very small window of opportunity so the treatment needs to be done as fast as possible. The widowmaker heart attack needs to be treated even faster than a regular heart attack, so make sure you detect the symptoms as fast as possible and get medical help.