While women are usually known to be at lesser risk of getting a heart attack, SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) is what is responsible for 40% of the attacks in women under the age of 50. As reported by WebMD.com, more than 90% of SCAD patients are female.
Unlike a more typical heart attack caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries, a SCAD heart attack starts with a tear in an artery. The tear blocks the artery and blood flow to the heart, leading to a heart attack.
Dr. O.P. Yadav, a renowned heart surgeon in New Delhi spoke to SheThePeople.Tv about heart attacks in women. ”The notion that young women do not get heart attacks is true, but not always of course, as is the case with anything else. Women, till the time they go into menopause, are prevented by heart attacks because of the estrogen level in their body. The ratio of female:male of getting a heart attack is 1:10, before the age of forty”, says Dr. Yadav.
He also adds, “Once women cross menopause, they lose the protection from estrogen, and by the age of 60 – 65, the ratio of female:male heart attacks shoots up to 1:1. Some also believe that this is the age where women are more vulnerable than man.” The tables completely turn around.
It is noted that people with SCAD are usually a healthy lot and do not come with the customary risk factors like smoking, diabetes or being overweight. This often leads to a wrong diagnoses which further aggravates the disease.
While heart attacks are typically diagnosed with blood work and a test called an electrocardiogram, SCAD can only be diagnosed with an angiogram (an X-ray that takes pictures of blood flow in the artery)
Dr. Yadav also talked about late presentation by women. He says, “There is a gender bias when it comes to women taking care of their health. If they feel something is wrong in the morning, they wont immediately get a check-up, but put their family’s priorities first. This leads to late presentation which ultimately leads to late treatment harming the woman.”
So what has the latest SCAD research revealed?
- Survival rates are much better than originally thought; the death rate is as low as 1 – 5 percent
- Standard heart attack treatment isn’t best; the patients are often prescribed a combination of aspirin and an anti-platelet medication. Doctors observe them for any complications that may arise
- Extreme stress is a trigger; physical and emotional turmoil has been noticed in the days prior to diagnosis of SCAD in the patients
Awareness and education definitely can help women overcome this catastrophe and we hope the ladies make their health a priority.