How A Heart Attack Could Save Your Life

Why one man is grateful for surviving a “widow maker” and how you can prevent one

Actor and Director, Kevin Smith, suffered a massive heart attack in February. From his hospital bed he Tweeted, “The Doctor who saved my life told me I had 100% blockage of my LAD artery (aka “the Widow-Maker”). If I hadn’t canceled show 2 to go to the hospital, I would’ve died tonight. But for now, I’m still above ground!”

What Is A Widow Maker?

Dr. James O’Brien, a board certified cardiologist with Capital Cardiology Associates, agrees that a “widow maker” is a definite life changer. “The widow maker is the form of a blockage in one of the main arteries of the heart called the LAD or the left anterior descending artery. They call it the widow maker because that artery is responsible for a lot of muscle.” In Smith’s case, he started feeling nauseous, sweating heavily and threw up. He also said that his chest felt heavy. He was quickly taken to the hospital. “He was very lucky that he caught this early,” notes O’Brien. “As a result of that, he will be able to make changes in his life.”

Why Men At 40 Should Know Their Risk

There are three main factors that determine your risk for heart disease: stroke, or a heart attack: your diet, exercise or activity level, and family history. In Smith’s case, he was admittedly overweight. In 2010 he said he was booted from a Southwest Airlines flight for being too large for one seat. Smith also admitted to an unhealthy lifestyle, smoking marijuana, working late hours, with little to no daily exercise or physical activity. With his diet and exercise lacking, Smith’s risk of heart attack tripled with a family history of heart disease. His father died from a massive heart attack, as Kevin described as, “screaming for his life.”

Two months after his heart attack, Smith spoke out, encouraging men to use his experience as a life-changing moment for themselves. “The heart attack was the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Smith. “I didn’t know until I was in the operating room that I had a heart attack. I didn’t feel it, I didn’t recognize that it was happening.” He was also told he had to make lifestyle changes. Smith has lost over 30 pounds since the heart attack on a plant based diet. “What worked for me was reading Penn Jillette’s book, ‘Presto‘ where he talks about losing 100 pounds.” In the book, Jillette went on a potato and plant based diet. Smith also joined Weight Watchers with the hopes to lose 25 more pounds.

Dr. O’Brien recommends the Mediterranean Diet for patients with heart disease. “It’s basically a push away from animals (as a protein source) and over to plants. It’s more fruits and veggies, fish as away to cut down on animal products including butter, substituting olive oil.” The Mayo Clinic reports that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. The diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries.

Written by: Michael Arce, Media Specialist

Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.