WWE's Jerry 'The King' Lawler underwent an angioplasty, Sept. 10, 2012: What can we learn from this?

Photo via SciencePhoto.com

In the wake of the barrage of media coverage about Jerry Lawler, ours included, since last night's (Sept. 10) episode of Monday Night Raw, it occurred to me that something good could come out of this situation.

Perhaps Jerry Lawler's unfortunate timing of having his heart attack occur live - on the air, in front of millions of viewers - will inspire fans to focus on being more heart-healthy themselves. After all, it may occur to at least some of them that it could have just as easily been them falling to the floor next to a good friend and colleague of theirs, or - heaven forbid - in front of a family member, right out of the blue.

Some would say the "stereotypical pro wrestling fan" is not necessarily a shining example of a fit and healthy human being. I mean, we have been referred to as fat, lazy and "slovenly" -- among other things. Undoubtedly, some fans fall in this category, but it is by no means representative of us all.

What some may fail to realize though, is that although being overweight and sedentary does contribute to heart disease, thin and active people can succumb to it as well; it is an equal opportunity killer. Point of fact: Lawler, despite his age, was actively wrestling with men far younger than himself just moments before his attack occurred, and he was a lifelong athlete of sorts.

What we have learned so far about Jerry Lawler's medical situation is:

He has been confirmed to have suffered a massive heart attack, underwent immediate cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), received oxygen and stabilizing procedures, was transported to the hospital via ambulance, was admitted to an isolated emergency room (ER), was then given a Computed Tomography (CT/CAT) scan of his chest and head, was subsequently operated on, where he received a balloon and stent angioplasty procedure, and is now reportedly stable and recovering in the intensive care unit (ICU). He was fortunate, in that he received immediate medical intervention and that he was determined to be able to evade open heart surgery.

But what exactly does all that even mean?

Rather than spending the next several hours browsing wikipedia or WebMD, giving yourself a migraine trying to decipher all this, please feel free to join me for a little cardiac health lesson after the jump.

When a cardiac patient has been assessed to have a need for "interventional procedures", an Interventional Cardiologist will step in to assist them. This guy, or gal, is a heart specialist who requires special training and experience, in addition to their basic cardiology training, in order to perform certain invasive procedures to save or prolong their patient's lives.

Invasive procedures, such as the one Mr. Lawler underwent last night, are tests or treatments that involve catheters which are threaded from a large artery to the heart. Wuh?

Well, during a Cardiac Catheterization, a tiny tube, called a catheter, or several of them, depending on the damage involved, will be placed in the coronary arteries. They actually inject this in the leg and work their way up to the heart through a small incision and watch the procedure via other methods.

How they do this is to also inject dye into the arteries. Why? This is done so that the arteries can be seen by the doctor on a moving x-ray, called fluoroscopy (flu·o·ros·co·py). This test is performed to identify narrowings within the arteries. Dye can also be injected into the chambers of the heart to evaluate the function of the heart muscle. Special catheters can also be placed in the heart, allowing the cardiologist to measure pressure within the chambers and to evaluate the function of the heart valves.

If there are any narrow areas in a coronary artery, which was undoubtedly the case for "The King", balloon catheters are advanced into the area. The balloon is inflated within the coronary artery to push the plaque against the walls of the artery. This is called Angioplasty (an·gi·o·plas·ty).

So what does that mean? Well, an angioplasty is just a way to widen a narrow or blocked coronary artery and improve blood flow to your heart without traditional open-heart bypass surgery. As in the case of Lawler, it is often used during, or soon after, a heart attack. It can also help prevent a heart attack for some people with coronary artery disease.

During the angioplasty the doctor threads the catheter/s into the artery. At the end of the catheter is a tiny balloon. The doctor inflates the balloon inside the artery to open the blocked area.

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Balloon-Stent Angioplasty Image via www.mediresource.com

Often, Stents need to be placed at the area of the angioplasty to prevent the narrowing from recurring. A stent was reportedly used, as well as a balloon, in Mr. Lawler's angioplasty.

A stent is a very small, criss-cross, wire-mesh tube that expands and pushes out against the walls of the artery to keep it open. The doctor threads it in the artery, inserted in a collapsed form, over the balloon catheter, directly to the site of the narrowing. Once the narrowing is reached, the balloon is inflated, leaving the stent in place to support the walls of the blood vessel. Some stents also release a drug that helps keep the artery open over time.

These procedures can also be performed in other arteries in the body such as the neck, the kidneys and the legs. This would be called Peripheral Intervention instead of Cardiac Intervention. Whether a patient would benefit from an angioplasty, balloon or stent procedure, depends on just how badly and how many blocked arteries they have, as well as other medical issues they may have.

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Okay, so now that we know all of this, how can this scary situation with Jerry Lawler and his heart, positively affect us, as a pro wrestling community?

We can learn that there are things proven to be effective in helping us to prevent this from happening to us or someone we care about or work with. Like what?

Well, first of all, stop smoking; yeah, yeah, you hear this all the time, but here are five quick and dirty tips as to why:

  • It makes your blood cells more likely to form clots. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.
  • It can cause spasms in your coronary arteries, which can reduce the blood flow to your heart.
  • It can make your heart beat in an odd rhythm.
  • It lowers "good" cholesterol and lets your "bad" cholesterol build up in your arteries more easily.
  • It reduces how much oxygen your blood can carry. This means your heart (and the rest of your body) may not get enough oxygen.

Quitting smoking is not easy. Many people have to try several times before they quit for good. But the point is, they DO finally succeed and with the right help, so can you.

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Secondly, exercise your heart; seriously, it's that easy. If you aren't active right now, starting to exercise may seem hard, believe me, I have been there. But it is worth it. You do not have to do a whole lot to make a difference. Being more active can:

  • Help you control your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Make your heart stronger and reduce symptoms like chest pain.
  • Help you avoid heart attack and stroke and live longer.
  • Reduce stress and give you more energy.

Walking is a great, easy way to get exercise. Get off the couch and if your doctor says it's safe, start out with some short walks. Make them a bit longer until you are walking 20-30 minutes at a time. If that's not for you, try aerobics, swimming, biking, water aerobics, Frisbee golf, wrestling with your kids, or even Wii fit-Plus or Xbox Kinect; whatever it takes. The important thing is to try to get some exercise several days a week, even a little bit can help if you haven't been active at all.

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As always, it is a no-brainer that you should see your doctor before you start exercising. As he or she may want to do a test to see how much activity your heart can handle. If your doctor prescribes nitroglycerin to you, due to cardiac disease, be sure to have it with you whenever you exercise.

Stop what you are doing right away if you have any chest pain or start to feel bad and seek medical advice. One can't help but wonder if Jerry Lawler had taken this medication during the course of last night, if things may have played out differently or not. Perhaps he did so and still had an attack, all the fine details have not been released as of yet, on his particular case.

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Get a check-up periodically. Know your cholesterol numbers, all four of them, yes there are several important numbers to know. Also, familiarize yourself with your blood pressure readings; if possible know what it is while lying, sitting AND standing. Educate yourself on what all of those stats mean. Watch what you eat, "eat to live, don't live to eat."

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Lastly, Cagesiders, be aware of when to call a doctor in the event you, a colleague, friend or loved one becomes ill.

Call 911, if:

  • You have chest pain or pressure with other signs of a heart attack. These may include:
  1. Sweating.
  2. Shortness of breath.
  3. Nausea or vomiting.
  4. Pain in your upper back, belly, neck, jaw, or arms.
  5. Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
  6. A fast or uneven heartbeat.
  • You have been diagnosed with angina, and you have chest pain or pressure that does not go away with rest or within five minutes of taking nitroglycerin.
  • You faint.

After calling 911, you or the person involved, should chew on one adult aspirin (unless you are allergic to it). Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to drive yourself to the hospital.

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Call your doctor, if:

  • You have developed chest pain (angina) or if it is more often than usual, or the pain is worse or different than usual.
  • You have had any chest pain, even if it has gone away.
  • You have any problems with your medicines.

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So there you have it, Cagesiders, hopefully this situation with Jerry "The King" Lawler plays out to where he is healthier than ever, gets excellent treatment, undergoes cardiac rehab, and is able to be back at the announce table by the end of the year.

Additionally, let's hope this motivates some of us to gain a heightened sense of awareness about our own heart health; to get up, get out, get active, eat smart and see our doctors; so we can live another day to enjoy some more pro wrestling and gab about it right here on our favorite blog with one another, too!

Disclaimer: Although I am not a Doctor, nor a medical expert, I do have experience in the medical field, in 911 and emergency services, as well as a personal history of dealing with cardiac issues, similar to "The King's", within both my immediate and extended family.

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