All of us here in Dallas-Fort Worth are still grieving from the news that Kidd Kraddick, our beloved legendary radio personality, passed away suddenly this weekend while at a New Orleans golf tournament to raise money for his charity, Kidd’s Kids.
Although it was initially reported that Kraddick may have experienced a brain aneurysm, the Jefferson Parish coroner’s office in New Orleans recently announced that he likely passed away from cardiac disease.
According to the official reports, three of his arteries contained a blockage with one of them blocked up to 80 percent. He also showed signs of an enlarged heart.
According to the deputy coroner, “toxicology tests are pending, but Kraddick likely went into cardiac dysrhythmia–an abnormal heartbeat–possibly caused by ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. Both of which, if left untreated, can cause imminent death.”
Sudden deaths like this in people who are in the prime of their life always leave us with questions. How did this happen? Could it happen to me? Is it possible to prevent something like this?
Jeffrey Schussler, M.D., a cardiologist on the medical staff at Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital, answered these questions and provided us with some background on cardiac disease, the leading cause of death in both men and women in the U.S.
Q: Kidd Kraddick was only 53 years old. Is it common for people who are young to die of heart disease?
“Yes, it can happen. If you have a family history of heart disease your risk is much higher at a younger age. Since I am not Mr. Kraddick’s physician, I can’t say for certain what his personal health history was, nor can I speculate on the exact cause of his death; however, it has been reported that he may have been a smoker and what I do know is that smoking leads to heart disease. Smoking is the number one risk factor that can tip an otherwise healthy person into having a coronary event like a heart attack at an early age.”
Unfortunately, we see this happen very frequently in people who are at a normal weight and exercise regularly. I can’t stress enough how much smoking can contribute to not only heart disease, but cancer and other illnesses as well.
As I stated in an earlier interview with the Dallas Morning News, the toxins in cigarettes lead to an aggressive build-up of a certain kind of plaque and can make that plaque more likely to rupture.”
Q: What happens when someone has a heart attack?
“A heart attack occurs when arteries that feed blood to the heart contain a buildup of plaque which leads to blockages. If blood can not flow to the heart efficiently, it can cause the heart muscle to die. Once that happens, a heart attack will likely occur.”
Q: It seems that many people survive heart attacks these days, but some immediately pass away from them. What contributes to this difference?
“It was reported that Kraddick may have had an enlarged heart. I can’t speak to the cause of that specifically, but what I can tell you is that irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, in addition to the deterioration of the heart muscle, can lead to a sudden death as reported by the coroner’s office.”
Many people come to the hospital complaining of chest pressure, tingling in the arm, nausea, jaw pain, etc. These are all classic signs of a heart attack, but if the heart begins to beat irregularly, it can beat so fast that blood pressure drops dramatically. This can lead to a sudden and unexpected death.”
Q: It has been reported that Kidd Kraddick wasn’t feeling well that day and that he appeared sweaty. Could these be signs of a heart attack?
“Yes, they could potentially be signs of a cardiac event. Again, classic signs of a heart attack include pain or discomfort in the center of the chest, tingling of the arm, jaw pain and shortness of breath. Sweating, nausea, indigestion symptoms and feeling light-headed can also be signs.”
However, some people do not equate these symptoms with a heart attack because the signs can be so varied. You may experience only a few of them. I’ve had patients come in days after having a heart attack, but they just weren’t aware that’s what was happening. Sometimes we see people who are in denial and are fearful about coming to the hospital.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, take them seriously and get to a hospital as soon as possible. Every minute counts when it comes to surviving a heart attack.”
Q: Is it true that men and women have different heart attack symptoms?
“No. This is actually somewhat of a myth. Since the signs of a heart attack can be so varied, it has led to speculation that women experience different symptoms. Anyone can experience any of the symptoms listed above. In fact, the rate of heart attacks between men and women is very similar, although men tend to present earlier in life with heart attacks.”
Q: How can you prevent heart disease?
“Anyone can help prevent heart disease by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, knowing their “numbers” (blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc.) in addition to knowing their family history of heart disease. See a doctor regularly and stay on top of your health.
You know your body better than anyone so if something feels “off” don’t ignore it.”
For more information about heart disease or to download a free pocket card to keep track of your own personal heart numbers, visit BaylorHealth.com. You can also take a free heart disease risk assessment at BaylorHeartHospital.com.