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Heart Failure or Heart Attack - Enron CEO Ken Lay Could Have Died from Either Condition - Stress is Known Risk Factor - Defibrillators

July 6th 2006

Heart Failure or Heart Attack - Enron CEO Ken Lay Could Have Died from Either Condition - Stress is Known Risk Factor - Defibrillators

Portable Heart Defibrillator

Doctors are not sure whether the extra stress killed Enron CEO Ken Lay.  He has been under a lot of stress the past year after his conviction of defrauding investors and employees by repeatedly lying about Enron's finances.  He was looking at a long prison sentence.

He was already being treated for heart disease, but according to Joy Victory, Bharathi Radhakrishnan and the ABC News Medical Unit, he was not viewed as an imminent risk for heart attack.  Back in the mid 1990’s he was prescribed a cholesterol-lowering statin drug. Around five years ago, his coronary disease had progressed to a point where his doctors decided to put in at least one stent.  This is a wire mesh device that was placed in one of his arteries to try to prevent a future heart attack, according to Victory. 


A source said he had what was described as stable coronary disease.  The Houston ABC affiliate said he was concerned about his condition, so much so, that he put portable heart defibrillators, which can be used to restart the heart, in his houses and on his airplane.

Lay could have suffered from what is known as the “broken heart syndrome”.  Sudden cardiac death increases after general calamities, like earthquakes and the loss of a loved one. 

Doctors believe that if Lay had a previous heart attack, it would have placed him at a higher risk for another one.  Some doctors speculate that he could have died from heart failure and not a heart attack. 


Heart attacks are caused by blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the heart.  This usually occurs from fat clogging the arteries.  Heart failure occurs from a disruption of the heart’s electrical rhythm.   

Jeannie Kever in the Houston Chronicle reported that Type A personalities who are accustomed to being in control can become stressed-out when not in control.  Most criminal defendants resist the loss of control, and Lay was unlikely to be different.

John O’Neill, director of the professionals in crisis program at the Menninger Clinic, told the Chronicle, “"Anytime you feel like you don't have control over what's going on, it can lead to more stress.  It's hard to feel safe if you're trying to figure out what's going to happen tomorrow, when you know something is going to happen."

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Dan Wilson
Freelance Writer

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Keywords and misspellings:  defribilator defibrolator defibrilator defribilator cardiac arest arrest defribulator

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