Not all heart attacks are created equal, especially when they happen in women. In addition to often experiencing different warning signs of a heart attack, women are also more likely to have a sudden tearing in the walls of the arteries that bring blood to the heart muscles. This condition is called “spontaneous coronary artery dissection” [SCAD], according to medical officials at The Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute, part of Baptist Health International. The institute recently released an article, “A Different Type of Heart Attack That Affects Mostly Women” to promote the care and preventive education of the disease that affects many women.
“In recent studies about SCAD, it seems to affect about 90 percent of women when compared to men,” said Dr. Marcus St. John, an interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab with Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute at Baptist Hospital.
“It’s a disease that’s not well known, but people with a predisposing disease of the blood vessels will have a lower threshold for getting help,” said Dr. St. John.
The signs and symptoms of SCAD, he said, are similar to those of a heart attack — uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back; pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath (with or without chest discomfort); or breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort, with women more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain, according to the American Heart Association.
“Anyone who experiences signs of a heart attack should alert their doctor right away or get to a hospital,” said Dr. St. John.
The Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute, part of Baptist Health International, is the largest and most comprehensive cardiovascular facility in Latin America and the Caribbean.