When speaking of heart disease, what is the Widowmaker?

My grandfather, my uncle and now my first cousin (also male) died from what the doctor called the Widowmaker at the age of 58-61. My brother is 53 and wants to know what test do you need to determine if this is going to happen to him? And even though it is on the male side of the family, can it affect the females as well?

Submitted by Sandra from United States on 11/16/2014

by Denton A. Cooley, MD

The “widowmaker” is an expression describing the complete closure of the left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery. The LAD is an essential coronary artery and its occlusion can result in immediate death, hence the name. It is now well known that women frequently develop coronary artery occlusive disease, thus they are also vulnerable to this problem.

A cardiac stress test can indicate whether or not there is disease in the distribution of the left anterior descending coronary artery. The more definitive diagnostic test is the coronary angiogram (dye test) which shows the actual blockage.