Here’s What You Need to Know About SCAD, a Leading Cause of Heart Attacks for Women

Heart disease: it’s currently the leading cause of death for women in the United States—it beats out stroke, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. Though the disease has been on the top of the list for some time now, we think, it’s not something that gets discussed nearly enough.

Now, if you’re a relatively young, healthy woman who carries on an active lifestyle, it may seem like your chances of developing heart disease are slim to none, but in actuality, it’s an illness that can affect all facets of the population, regardless of race, age, or socioeconomic status.

One of the least talked about forms of the disease just so happens to be one of the deadliest. It’s called SCAD, otherwise known as spontaneous coronary artery dissection. It’s a particularly frightening illness because, for the most part, the women who develop it appear completely healthy.

SCAD occurs when a tear forms in the blood vessel of the heart, which can slow or stop the organ and, in the worst cases, can lead to cardiac arrest. Though men are at risk, too, women are, by in large, more commonly affected by the potentially fatal disturbance.

The often hidden risks and warning signs of SCAD

So, you may be wondering, if you are a young, healthy woman, how could you know if you are at a risk of falling ill with this disease? As it turns out, there are a few underlying causes and symptoms that you can look out for before it’s too late…

  1. You are experiencing chest pain

    Pain in the chest area is often one of the very first symptoms that SCAD patients report as they’re experiencing heart attacks. Chest pain like this can feel somewhat mild and is often mistaken for gas, acid reflux, or a pulled muscle.

  2. You are having trouble catching your breath

    Folks can experience a temporary shortness of breath for a variety of reasons, including respiratory illness, anxiety, and allergies, but if the malady comes out of nowhere, it could be a sign that you need to get help immediately.

  3. You have pain or tightness in the jaw, shoulders, or arms

    This symptom is a particularly difficult one to pinpoint, especially considering this type of body soreness can feel similar to the kinds associated with stress, a bad night’s sleep, or even a hard workout session.

  4. You have just had a baby

    Childbirth seems to be the one symptom that is strongly associated with SCAD, specifically. For reasons currently unknown to doctors, women who have recently given birth are the most at risk for developing the disease.

It’s scary stuff, folks, but the more you educate yourself on these deadly diseases, the better chance you have of stopping one in its tracks!

To meet two women who have experienced spontaneous coronary artery dissection and to learn why it is so often misdiagnosed, be sure to watch Good Morning America’s video below.

Have you or a loved one ever been diagnosed with SCAD? If so, what was your experience like? Have you ever dealt with a devastating misdiagnosis before?

Sources: The Mayo Clinic

The Centers for Disease Control