Triathlete, 38, Survives After ‘Widow Maker’ Heart Attack Leaves Him 'Dead for Several Minutes' During Race

Matias Escobar didn’t have any obvious risk factors for a heart attack but is part of a growing trend of unexplained heart attacks in younger people



Matias Escobar was in the final stretch of the New York City Triathlon last October when he suffered a massive heart attack that left him lying on the asphalt without a pulse.

“I was dead for several minutes. My heart stopped beating, and they kept me [alive] with CPR for 12 minutes until the ambulance came,” Escobar, 38, told Today.

He was in a coma for two days afterwards as doctors tried to figure out why Escobar — who said he wasn’t stressed out, didn’t eat a lot of red meat or drink much alcohol — suffered an ST-elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI), the deadliest type of heart attack that is known as a “widow-maker” Escobar said.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, up to 10% of people who have a STEMI die within 30 days, as it’s a “a total blockage of one of the heart's main supply arteries.”

“When that is happening during a heart attack,” the Cleveland Clinic says, “it can be a sign that the muscle of the ventricles is dying.”

Related: Mom, 40, Had a Widowmaker Heart Attack — This Unusual Symptom Led to Her Diagnosis

The triathlete is part of a growing trend of otherwise healthy, younger individuals having heart attacks.

“There are definitely more younger people coming in with heart attacks. There’s data to back that up. What’s driving that is more controversial,” Dr. Deepak Bhatt, director of the Mount Sinai Fuster Heart Hospital, told Today.

But for someone like Escobar, who was seemingly healthy, the cause of his heart attack was believed to be inflammation — and perhaps cholesterol, as the athlete and father of one 2-year-old says he had elevated cholesterol when he was younger.

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of Mount Sinai ambulance.


Stock image of Mount Sinai ambulance.

However, as Escobar told Today, "The cardiologist back then didn’t define it as a risk. It was a data point that I needed to bring down, but I wasn’t diagnosed with anything.”

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But as Bhatt told Today, even the slightly elevated cholesterol could have caused the heart attack. “Was it a risk? It matters what your cholesterol is today, of course, but also how long it was high before and how high — that determines how much plaque [you have], even if it’s been well-controlled.”

And Escobar says doctors told him it's dangerous to have "any cholesterol in your veins, it doesn’t matter how healthy you are."

Related: Kevin Smith's Daughter Harley Says She 'Made' Him 'Go Vegan' After His Heart Attack Scare

As Bhatt tells Today, "I think that’s the most important message — know what the risk factors are and know your numbers. Everyone should know their blood sugar, blood pressure, waist circumference and bad (LDL) cholesterol. Those are key vital signs."

While the cause of Escobar’s heart attack wasn’t officially determined, the athlete said he’s adopted a vegan diet and remains active — and that includes training for the next New York City Triathlon.

"Initially, I didn’t want to do the same race that killed me, basically,” he told Today, “but I think I have to."

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