GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Researchers at Mayo Clinic are trying to identify what leads to certain heart attacks in young healthy active people--mainly women.
The phenomenon is called "SCAD", or spontaneous coronary artery dissection, and happens when a blood vessel tears in the heart, causing a heart attack.
At age 45 the risk of heart attack seemed far off for Susan Brott, who lives in Woodbury, but while on the treadmill last August, a blood vessel began to tear inside Susan’s heart.
"I didn't have high blood pressure, I don't have high cholesterol, I lead a relatively healthy lifestyle," said Susan who recalls feeling dizziness that led to pain. “I had chest pains, I had back pains, I had pain down my arm."
After ignoring it for a couple hours, Susan went to the emergency room.
"I honestly did not think heart attack,” said Susan. “I did not think that at all."
Doctors didn't think so either. After many tests doctors diagnosed SCAD at 5 a.m. the following morning. Susan was having a heart attack.
“SCAD mostly occurs in young women the age of from 42 to 52,” said Ganesh Raveendran, M.D., a cardiologist at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.
The U of M Medical Center encounters SCAD two to three times a year, according to Raveendran, whose unlikely patients have included a 27-year-old women who was swimming when it happened and a 14-year-old boy.
Raveendran says so far there is no sure way to predict SCAD or prevent it from occurring. He says it often affects women who have recently given birth or those under a lot of stress.
"I think it's easy to say, 'Oh it's nothing, oh it's heart burn, oh it will go away,” said Susan, “Take [the symptoms] seriously.”
SCAD heart attack symptoms can include chest pain, shortness of breath and nausea. If you experience those, call 911. For more information on this deadly condition check out the SCAD Alliance website.