'This Is Us' shines a light on heart conditions

'This Is Us' shines a light on heart conditions

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - "This Is Us" put a fresh focus on heart conditions in its recent Super Bowl Sunday episode. If you haven't watched yet, be warned: this post contains spoilers.

Fans anticipated Sunday's episode for months: It finally explained how protagonist Jack Pierson died, and it's bringing new attention to heart health this February, which is American Heart Month.

In Sunday's highly anticipated episode, Pierson saved his family from a raging house fire. Miraculously, he got out of the house alive. But fans were shocked by his catastrophic heart attack just hours after the house fire. It ultimately killed him.

Other characters referred to the event as a "widowmaker."

Time magazine reports online searches for that type of heart attack spiked about 5,000 percent after Sunday's show.

A Huntsville Hospital cartologist explained what exactly a "widowmaker" is.

"The term 'widowmaker' really came from the high incidence of potential death that was associated with that. It's an old term that was used for years to describe a heart attack that occurs because of a blockage in the really proximal portion of the vessel on the front of the heart," Dr. Michael Butler said.

The internet went crazy over Pierson's death. Writers purposely misled viewers to believe he'd die in the house fire. But Butler said the smoke from the fire, certainly could have played a part in his death.

"Heart attacks can come from vulnerable plaques. The scary thing is sometimes you can have a plaque that is vulnerable that's actually not causing symptoms at all," he said.

Stress, intense exercise or maybe even smoke inhalation can cause a plaque to become unstable and rupture, Butler said.

He added that exercising and sticking to a healthy diet are ways to prevent heart issues later on.

"As far as exercise goes, or reducing your risk of heart attack or stroke, just 30 minutes a day, five days a week is recommended by the heart association…really reduces the risk a great deal. Making smart choices with what you're eating. Doing things day to day, small things, lower the risk in the long run," he said.

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