Kristen Bowlds was floored when at 29 she suffered her first heart attack. It followed the birth of her second child.
“I just felt tightness in my chest, a little fatigue and just nauseous,” Bowlds said in an interview with The Today Show.
Doctors immediately did tests which, which revealed an irregular heartbeat they put down to the new mum’s C-section surgery.
Kristen was sent home with her husband and newborn daughter, ready to begin life as a family of four. However, the pain continued.
Six days later, after some encouragement from her husband, Kristen returned to the hospital.
She was shocked to discover she was experiencing a heart attack and was later diagnosed with Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD).
The condition is caused by a tear in the heart’s artery wall, which can slow or block blood flow. Reduced or restricted blood flow can cause heart attack and sudden death.
Kristen was baffled.
“I’m like, ‘I have never heard of this before?’” Bowlds asked.
“I am 29 years old. I was healthy. I’ve never had any family history of heart disease...so I reacted like, ‘How is this happening?’”
She would go on to experience another heart attack at a charity run, and ultimately triple-bypass surgery, before the age of 32.
Doctors attributed her tears to stress, and, after undergoing major surgery, Kristen was forced to stop working in an effort to prevent future heart attacks.
“It was a life-changing experience and a life-changing event. I had to make a lot of changes in my life. My goals and priorities are different now,” she said.
What is SCAD?
Although the exact cause of SCAD is unknown, nearly 90 per cent of all SCAD cases happen in women between the ages of 30 and 60.
Genetics, hormone changes, multiple pregnancies, cocaine use, systemic inflammations such as Chron’s disease have been linked as potential causes of artery wall weakening, which can lead to SCAD.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, there are several factors that increase the risk of SCAD, including fibromuscular dysplasia, connective tissue disorders, severe emotional stress, cocaine use, intense physical exertion and hormone therapy with estrogen and progesterone.
While many people know that shortness of breath, chest pain and left arm pain often indicate a heart attack, there are plenty of other warning signs and symptoms to look out for.
Pressure or tightness in the neck, jaw or back, nausea or heartburn, abdominal pain, fatigue, sweating and lightheadedness are common signs of heart attack that people may not know about.
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