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Watching Out For The Widow Maker: March 3, 2014

The name itself sounds frightening: the widow maker. In terms of a cardiac event- it is named for good reason.

“When this happens, most of the people die unless you open those blockages pretty quickly,” says Dr. Murali Muppala, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

It’s caused by a sudden blockage of the left anterior descending artery, which gives circulation to about two-thirds of your heart.

“When it is completely shut off, there is no oxygen going to the heart muscle. If you don't get treatment immediately it’s possible you could die before you realize you were having a heart attack,” says Dr. Muppala.

By some estimates the survival rate is between 5 and 10%. Because this heart attack comes on quickly with little or no warning, the best way to cheat on the widow maker is to know your risks.

“It’s very important for all of us to realize whether we have strong family history. If you know that someone in your family has a heart attack, your chance of having heart attack is definitely higher,” says Dr. Muppala.

People with a strong family history should be cautious, especially if they have other health conditions which impact heart disease, including hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes.

“You need to make sure you talk to your doctor, make sure you are getting proper treatment for those things. The other things you could do on individual level: physical activity, exercise four to five times a week, make sure your eating right, make sure you’re not smoking and make sure you lead healthy, active lifestyle,” says Dr. Muppala.

By showing your heart some love, monitoring your health under a doctor’s supervision, you are more likely to keep the widow-maker away.