Medicine: The Big Squeeze

Spasm causes heart attack

Margaret, 32, a California housewife, seemed in perfect health. Then, while shopping one day, she suddenly fell to the floor dead, apparently of a heart attack. Harry's demise was less unexpected; the New York stockbroker, 49, had been suffering from angina pectoris, periodic attacks of severe chest pain, for several months before he died in his sleep. In both cases, doctors assumed the fatal attacks had been triggered by blood clots or atherosclerotic plaques clogging the pencil-thin arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to heart muscle. But autopsies showed that the coronary arteries of both victims were free of...

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