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With some questionable health advice being posted by your friends on Facebook, politicians arguing about the state of the American healthcare system and a new medical study being summarized in just a sentence or two on TV---that seems to contradict the study you heard summarized yesterday---it can be overwhelming to navigate the ever-changing landscape of health news.

To Your Health: S.C.A.D. (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection)

Picture provided by Gina Witt, SCAD survivor

Last year, a few weeks before Christmas, one of my best friends texted me “I have very strange news.” I wasn’t sure what would come next, but I sure didn’t expect it to be “I had a heart attack.” Gina and I became friends when we were in high school and even though we live 7 hours apart now we are still close. She is a marathon runner and a vegan.  After our friendship flashed before my eyes, I texted back “Are you the healthiest person they have ever had in the cardiac unit?” 

Hello, I’m Dr. Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs at Southeast Missouri State University. Heart-healthy people can suffer heart attacks due to a condition known as SCAD: spontaneous coronary artery dissection.

The Mayo Clinic explains SCAD occurs in the absence of any other heart disease and is caused by a small tear in the wall of the artery that causes blood to accumulate there. As it grows, the space for blood flow narrows, which can cause a heart attack. Dr. Sharrone Hayes, founder of the Mayo Women’s Heart Clinic, states that it’s estimated that SCAD is responsible for 1-4% of heart attacks; however, 10-40% of all heart attacks in women under the age of 50 are due to SCAD.

The Cleveland Clinic reports the following factors appear to increase the risk of SCAD: female gender, pregnancy, fibromuscular dysplasia, high blood pressure, and extreme exercise. While the prognosis is good for people who survive the initial event, the biggest risk is when women’s symptoms are ignored because they seem too healthy to have a heart attack. Thankfully, Gina didn’t ignore her symptoms and her husband took her to the hospital where she was properly evaluated and diagnosed.

Dr. Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs is an assistant professor in the Department of Leadership, Middle & Secondary Education. She writes for special publications of The Southeast Missourian and is a certified Community Health Worker.
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