Health Check: Rare type of heart attack often impacts women under 50

There’s a type of heart attack that often affects more women than men, oftentimes under the age of 50. (WJAR)

There’s a type of heart attack that often affects more women than men, oftentimes under the age of 50.

They are otherwise healthy people with no known risk factors.

"May 1st --I woke up in the morning and I just didn't feel right," said 47-year-old Kearry Otrando of West Greenwich.

She said she had tingling in her arms, so she took some aspirin.

"Within minutes, it radiated across my chest and my daughter said, ‘Mom, you ok?" she recalled. "I said, ‘I'm having chest pain.’ And within a minute, I was down on the ground."

Otrando had a heart condition known as SCAD.

"It stands for spontaneous coronary artery dissection," said Dr. Gary Katzman, a cardiologist at Lifespan.

SCAD is an actual tear in the wall of the artery that literally comes out of the blue.

"Think of a jacket and the zipper pulling down and the layers pulling apart,” said Katzman. “That's what happens to the coronary artery."

After a second heart attack just days later, Otrando was prescribed medication and rehabilitation at Miriam Hospital's cardiac rehabilitation program.

"They wear monitors. We can keep an eye on their rhythm, check their heart rates before the exercise, while they're exercising, their blood pressure while they're exercising, so that we can tell what their responses are going to be,” Julianne DeAngelis, an exercise physiologist with the rehab program, said.

While SCAD is rare, Otrando has already met someone in rehab who was in the same boat -- Aimee Hayes. Both women are monitored closely three times a week for six weeks.

"It is life changing. I'm afraid," said Otrando, admitting that she’s afraid to overdo it.

But DeAngelis said there’s nothing to fear.

"The goal is that they have the confidence to go out and do the stuff on their own once they finish and know what their limits are, and even more importantly, what they're able to do as opposed to thinking, ‘I can't do,’” DeAngelis said. “We want them to think about what they can do."

Otrando said it’s been helping.

“It's making me stronger," she said, also offering other woman advice. "Know your body. If you feel something that's not right get it checked out."

Katzman said the symptoms are the same as a heart attack.

“It mimics a regular heart attack,” she said. “The symptoms can be the same -- chest discomfort, trouble breathing, sweats, nausea and light headedness.”

Click here to find a Facebook group dedicated to creating awareness about SCAD.

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