This blog is an adaptation of a writing authored by Cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn, MD in an article titled: “The Widowmaker Death: What Every Exec Must Know” in Crain’s Detroit Business. I believe this information applies to all adults aged 45 or older.
The Widowmaker is the first portion of the largest heart artery called the left anterior descending (LAD) often results in sudden closure, massive heart attacks, or sudden death. The Widowmaker is the most frequent location of narrowing in all of the heart arteries. Was the physical exam you had at age 45, 50, or 60 reliable to help prevent a heart attack?
Get a Coronary Artery Calcium Scan (CACS)
A CACS is a CT scan of the heart that takes under one minute, uses no dye or needles, has a very low radiation exposure (equivalent to a mammogram), and costs under $500. It is the only way to actually see heart arteries, including the Widowmaker, in a painless and simple manner. The ideal result identified in about 50 percent of those tested is a CACS score of zero. A zero indicates the absence of calcium in the Widowmaker area and is associated with a long-term freedom from worry about a future heart attack that reassures for 5-10 years. Even a slight elevation in the CACS raises the risk for a future heart attack.
Without question, scores of people who have suffered heart attacks of the Widowmaker, fatal or not, would have had ample time to be fully evaluated had they had a CACS within a few years of the tragic day. If you have had a stent, heart bypass surgery, or a known heart blockage or heart attack, generally the CACS is not necessary as the details of your heart disease are already known.