HEART HEALTH: What's the "widowmaker"? - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

HEART HEALTH: What's the "widowmaker"?


You hear the expression of the "widowmaker" heart attack. What is the widowmaker?

Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "To answer this question you need to understand the circulation of the heart. Heart has 3 main arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygen rich blood. Of these 3 this particular vessel segment is responsible for 70-80% of the heart's blood supply. Imagine if there is a sudden interruption of blood supply taking 70-80% of the blood. One not only will have a massive heart attack but will have a cardiac arrest. The only way this person can survive is to re-open the vessel pretty quickly within minutes. This means it something like this happens outside of a hospital the person would likely not survive that and it will cause sudden death. The famous case was the NBCs newsman Tim Russert."

Matt Breen asked, "What can men vs. women do to prevent this type of heart attack?" Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "Apparently this condition is more common among men as compared to women. The way to prevent it is the same way to prevent any cardiovascular disease, that includes healthy lifestyle, no tobacco, good sugar control, cholesterol control and blood pressure control. Warning signs may be sudden less severe chest pain symptoms, passing out. So if a person experiences these symptoms they need to have complete cardiac examination to find these blockages."

Matt Breen asked, "Wendy from Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, asks, 'How common are anxiety induced heart palpitations?'" Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "The short answer is not so common. This is another typical chicken and egg question in medicine where you ask what came first. We know that anxiety can cause very fast heart rate and palpitation symptoms. We also know that if your heart suddenly starts to race due to a rhythm disorder you may sense bad case of anxiety. It has been seen that a person in their teens has been treated for anxiety for years and once they reach their 20's or 30's and finally get a second opinion it turned out that they had this rhythm disorder all along and once they get treatment they no longer have the anxiety any more."

Matt Breen asked, "How would you figure out if it is the chicken or the egg (if it is from anxiety or heart disease)?"

Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "As a cardiologist I am very careful with throwing out the anxiety diagnosis in any age group unless I have fully examined and tested the person's heart. If I don't find anything wrong and the person's symptoms don't associate with any bad rhythm disorders that I can record, and if the person has tendency to be anxious then I say, well may be."

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