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Widowmaker: the deadliest heart attack

Health & Science

While all kinds of heart attacks can be fatal, widowmaker heart attack has earned notoriety as one of the deadliest. It tends to attack out of the blue, and has a low survival rate. According to the American Heart Association, only about 12 per cent of people who experience a widow-maker heart attack out of the hospital live through it.

Why the name?

Although the name “widow maker” implies that this kind of heart attack affects men, this is a misnomer because it affects both sexes. It is called “widow maker” heart attack because it is caused by a blockage in the left anterior descending (LAD) artery, which is sometimes known as the widow maker artery.

Blockages in the LAD artery leave a large chunk of the heart without oxygen. This triggers a very fast, life-threatening heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation. This causes the affected person to collapse from sudden cardiac arrest. If blood flow is not restored within minutes of critical blockage, the heart muscle dies. The consequences can be catastrophic – many patients do not make it to the hospital alive.

If the patient makes it to the hospital in time, their outlook is definitely improved. But if the blood flow in the heart is not restored in a timely fashion, the patient’s heart is often irreversibly scarred and damaged.

Signs of a widowmaker heart attack

A widowmaker heart attack usually has the classic symptoms of other types of a heart attack. However, not all people will experience similar symptoms. Symptoms of a heart attack include:

· Chest discomfort, pressure, or pain

· Irregular or rapid heartbeat

· Pain in the shoulder or arms

· Shortness of breath

· Pain that radiates into the legs, back, neck and jaw

· Excessive sweating and clammy skin

· Feeling light-headed or weak

· Dizziness and fainting

· Abdominal pain that might feel like indigestion or heartburn

· Vomiting

Note: Women might experience heart attack symptoms a little differently. Heart attacks tend to be more “silent” in women, which explains why women are more likely than men to die from their first heart attack. In women, the symptoms listed above might be milder and come and go. In addition, a 2003 study found that almost half of women reported issues with sleep in the weeks before they had a heart attack.

These sleep issues may include difficulty getting to sleep, unusual waking throughout the night, and feeling tired despite getting adequate sleep.


When it comes to heart attacks, prevention is very important. By eating healthily, having a regular exercise routine, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding or quitting smoking, reducing stress, and maintaining healthy weight, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart attacks.

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