Spoiler alert! Stop here if you haven't watched the "Super Bowl Sunday" episode of This Is Us and don't want to know what happened.
After two long years and a Crock-Pot tease, This Is Us finally revealed how Jack Pearson died, on Sunday night's post-Super Bowl episode.
Turns out, after the slow-cooker blaze that shocked 15.6 million viewers, Jack survived. He got his family out of the house just in time and even went back for the dog and a few special mementos. He did require a trip to the hospital for smoke inhalation and burns, however.
And that's where Jack met his fate: As Rebecca made calls to family from the lobby payphone, Jack suffered a heart attack in his hospital room. And not just any heart attack—a widowmaker, as Rebecca later tells Jack's best friend, Miguel.
“One of the complications of smoke inhalation is that it puts terrible stress on the lungs and the heart. Your husband went into cardiac arrest,” the TV doctor told Rebecca. “I’m afraid we lost him.”
What exactly qualifies as a "widowmaker heart attack"? When a major blockage in the left anterior descending (LAD) artery—one of three arteries that supply the heart with blood—causes cardiac arrest, that's called a widowmaker, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Signs and symptoms
One woman whose husband suffered a widowmaker heart attack called the ordeal "startling" because "the symptoms were so mundane and easily overlooked," she told Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta.
An LAD artery blockage may cause the following symptoms:
- Arm pain
- Chest pain
- Indigestion or nausea
- Trouble breathing/shortness of breath
The term "widowmaker" is a bit of a misnomer, as these types of heart attacks happen to women, too. In fact, it's common for women to exhibit a particular set of symptoms: shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, intense fatigue, or pain in the back or jaw, according to WebMD. (Rosie O'Donnell suffered one in 2012.)
What are the chances of having one?
In the U.S., heart disease is the number-one killer of both women and men. Roughly 735,000 Americans, or 0.22 percent of the population, suffer heart attacks each year, resulting in about 23.5 percent of all annual U.S. deaths.
Drinking alcohol regularly could increases those chances. On This Is Us, Jack is a recovering alcoholic. Imbibing more than one to two drinks a day for men, and one drink per day for women, can increase the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and stroke, which are all contributing risk factors, according to the American Heart Association.
The Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper had a widowmaker while at the gym last February. Thankfully, there was a doctor onsite who performed CPR until an ambulance arrived.
What are the chances of surviving one?
The widowmaker's scary name comes from the fact that its victims have a very low survival rate. A person who goes into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting has a 6 percent chance of survival, according to a 2015 study, and those chances are even slimmer with a widowmaker.
How to protect yourself
Nearly half of all Americans have some risk factors for heart disease—either high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or smoking—according to the CDC. Other lifestyle factors that can put you at risk for a heart disease include poor diet and exercise, diabetes, obesity, and excessive alcohol intake.
You can lower your risk of heart disease by eating healthily, limiting alcohol use, not smoking, and getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise) each week.