SCAD: Heart Attack That Strikes In Young Healthy Women


Heart attacks can strike at any age and younger women are not immune to them. Heart attacks under the age of 50 are twice likely to be fatal for women as compared to men.

The heart condition that strikes younger women is known as ‘SCAD’ (spontaneous coronary artery dissection). It is one of the prominent heart attack causes in women.

SCAD affects women who appear healthy, thin and have no risk factors for a heart attack. So even though they have typical heart attack symptoms, they often misdiagnosed it.

Heart attacks are typically diagnosed with blood tests and an electrocardiogram (ECG), but SCAD can only be diagnosed with an angiogram (an X-ray test used to take pictures of blood flow in the coronary arteries).

The symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the shoulders, back, neck or jaw
  • Nausea, lightheadedness and sweating

What is SCAD Heart Attack?

SCAD is the leading cause of heart attacks in younger women. In this condition, a tear is caused in the innermost layer of an artery wall. This rare condition often affects women who are pregnant or just recovered from childbirth as well as female athletes. Most of the time, the tear heals on its own.

But if not identified early, SCAD can tear tunnels through the wall and when blood flows into the torn layer, a blockage forms. This may interrupt blood flow to the heart, ultimately causing a heart attack.

Causes of SCAD

A typical heart attack is caused by blockage due to Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) while a SCAD heart attack is caused due to a different type of blockage.

The exact causes of SCAD are not known yet. Here are a few potential causes mentioned:

  • Genetics: SCAD might develop from genetic mutations inherited from parents.
  • Hormones: SCAD also seems to occur more in women during their menstrual cycle and menopause.
  • Cell growth: A condition which causes unusual cell growth in the arteries can provoke SCAD.
  • Exercise: In some cases, highly strenuous exercise can also cause this disease.

Note: SCAD can also be triggered by highly emotional events or physical stresses.

Treatment Options for SCAD

The good thing is that the majority of SCAD cases will heal on their own. In case the tear has started causing blockage, treatment methods vary from medications to surgery.

Young women who have experienced any symptoms of a heart attack despite being fit and healthy are advised to take a heart checkup immediately. Cardiologists at Fortis Hospitals’ are dedicated to free you from any type of heart disease. We stand among the best heart hospital in India equipped with cutting edge technology, we aim to offer the best cardiac care to our patients.

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