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Heart Attacks and New Mothers – A Growing Concern

While arguably one of the most joyful times in a young women life, become a new mother can also be very stressful, especially if it is your first time. Do not be mistaken though, even the most seasoned of mothers can get overwhelmed with the appearance of a new little baby to care for.

Depending on the mom, on top of the new baby,  you will have to deal with your other children (if applicable), cooking, cleaning, diapers, crying, feeding, not sleeping (not saying you should as a women, but I’ve been there, its a reality), all of these things can make for a less then stellar experience. Compound that with the overall exhaustion of just having given birth, assuming there were no complications, and it is no wonder new mothers are among the most exhausted category of people imaginable. But what if I told you that you were also at a higher risk of suffering a very undiagnosed, yet very real type of heart attack?

A spontaneous coronary artery dissection (or SCAD) is a type of heart attack that occurs when artery walls tear, preventing blood from getting to the heart. SCAD heart attacks account for around 4 percent of all heart attacks that get treated in hospital, but it should be noted that it affects mostly women – and younger ones at that.

Unlike most types of heart attacks where the average age of the sufferer is a 65-year-old male, the average SCAD patient is 50 and a woman. However, this isn’t the most startlingly of SCAD heart attack statistics – because SCAD seems to strike hardest in women who have recently given birth.

“Patients with peripartum SCAD have a larger degree of heart attack in larger parts of the vessels,” says Dr. Jacqueline Saw, the country’s leading expert in spontaneous coronary artery dissection.

That isn’t where it ends in it’s severity. If a women has experience a previous SCAD attack, it is heavily advised for them not to become pregnant because it can further compound and add to the likelihood of a future tear.

So what is being done about it?

Dr. Chris Glover of the Ottawa Heart Institute says the hospital is registering more cases of SCAD because staff there have gotten better at identifying arterial tears, and because angiograms are now being conducted on all heart attack patients.

“We are starting to recognize when the anatomy doesn’t fit the garden variety heart attacks.”

As it stands right now, this all very new territory for researchers, however, in the future, the hope is that clear indicators will be established for the likelihood SCAD so as to best mitigates factors involving pregnancy.