• Woman holding dog

Rare Heart Condition

Affects Younger Women Disproportionately

An unexpected tear in a heart artery wall is called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), and when it occurs, blood pools between the inner and outer layers of the artery. The trapped blood can form a clot that slows or even stops blood flow to the heart, and the results can be deadly.

Though many of its 25,000 victims per year are women, SCAD is responsible for the deaths of comedians Alan Thicke and John Ritter. Researchers aren’t sure what causes SCAD, but patients are often women between 30 and 50 years of age who are otherwise healthy, with few or no risk factors for heart disease.

Audrey Weidman of Flossmoor, a wife and mother of two, suffered a SCAD event last October and walked around for two days not knowing it. Lean, physically active and committed to a holistic lifestyle, the frequent fitness blogger is definitely not someone you’d expect to have a heart attack.

When she started feeling discomfort in her chest one day last fall, she attributed it to a particularly intense yoga session from the day before. “I ignored it,” she said. It wasn’t until she had an EKG at a regularly scheduled doctor’s appointment in Chicago two days later that she discovered she’d had a heart attack.

“Unlike most heart attacks, my coronary angiogram revealed that I had no plaque in my arteries,” she explains. “Instead, the end of my left anterior descending aorta split.” Doctors prescribed cardiac rehabilitation and medical management.

She chose Ingalls Cardiac Rehabilitation. “That’s when it hit me,” she explains. “I needed to establish a relationship with a doctor and a hospital a lot closer to my home. It’s an hour drive into the city to get to my regular doctor and hospital.”

The Ingalls Cardiac Rehab staff set Audrey up with cardiologist P. Sandy Sundram, MD, and he’s been her cardiologist of record ever since. "I make sure I excercise. My dog, Elroy, needs his walk everyday." To manage stress, Audrey meditates, prays and has stopped watching the news.

“I’ve gotten really good care at Ingalls,” she said. “The rehab experience has been excellent. The nurses and staff there are phenomenal.”

For more information about Ingalls Heart Care, visit Ingalls.org/HeartCare or call Ingalls Care Connection at 708.915.CARE (2273)

Possible Causes of Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD)

  • Gender; it tends to affect women more
  • Giving birth
  • Extreme physical exertion
  • Diseases that cause blood vessel problems, such as lupus
  • Irregular growth of cells in the artery walls
  • Inherited connective tissue diseases such as Marfan syndrome
  • Very high blood pressure

Symptoms

  • Chest pain
  • A rapid heartbeat or fluttery feeling in the chest
  • Pain in the arms, shoulders or jaw
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Unusual, extreme fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
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