A healthy, slim woman in her thirties starts experiencing some chest pain.
Do you immediately think- Heart attack!?
I happen to be a healthy, slim woman in my thirties and it wouldn’t be my first thought.
When it happened to Sutherland Shire mum Brooke Furlong, she admitted that it took her a moment to realise what was going on too.
35-year-old Shire mum without risk-factors suffers heart attack
Brooke was 35 and the rigors of running around after her five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son had been keeping her very active. Since having her son she’d returned to work full time in the business that she part-owns.
“Being a part owner of a business, we’d had a particularly challenging year so that naturally came with stress and pressures.” Brooke said.
Exacerbating these stresses was the fact that her youngest child was not a great sleeper.
This exhausting lifestyle- a very familiar scenario for many mums- likely contributed to Brooke having a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), which stands for spontaneous coronary artery dissection, a sudden tear in one of the arteries leading to the heart.
Though you may never have heard of SCAD before, it’s in fact the #1 cause of heart attacks in women under 50 and new mums.
80-90% of SCAD Heart Attacks are in women with the average age of just 42 years old.
Brooke didn’t have any prior symptoms or a history of heart conditions in her family.
She’d been at work when she first started experiencing chest pains, which soon radiated down her left arm. So it was lucky that she had people around her and one of her business partners drove her straight to Sutherland Hospital.
“Despite my age, they took bloods to check my troponin levels, which continued to rise. They did an ECG which showed changes and performed a CT Angiogram which showed a dissection of the left anterior descending artery.” Brooke said.
After the cardiologist confirmed the SCAD heart attack, Brooke was confined to a hospital bed for seven days. She was luckily able to avoid surgery, receiving advice that the dissection would heal on its own.
“I had the most amazing care while in the hospital.”
Something else Brooke wasn’t ready for was how to explain her hospitalisation to her kids.
When asked how she explained the situation to her young children, Brooke said “My son was too young to understand [what had happened], however we were honest with our daughter and she understood what a heart attack was.”
I’d see her scared little eyes when she’d visit me in hospital. She is a really resilient child though, [and with] some reassurance, she took it all in her stride, as we all did.”
The road to recovery
Apart from having to avoid heavy-lifting, Brooke was able to return to her normal life pretty quickly. One thing she hadn’t anticipated, however, was how long the physical and emotional recovery would take.
Brooke described that “The recovery was long, a lot longer than I’d hoped.”
It was probably a good 6 months before I started to feel like myself again.
Overall I just wasn’t feeling well, I had ongoing chest pain and heart palpitations, which of course comes with added anxiety.”
Brooke says that while life is still as busy as ever, she does try to squeeze in a nana-nap now when she can.
Brooke wants all women to know “that SCAD Heart Attacks can happen at any age and at any fitness level, but both the physical and emotional toll do heal and that there is great support out there for those who need it.”
What should you do?
Stay alert! Though Brooke’s SCAD heart attack occurred without warning, there can be symptoms of an oncoming attack .
These can include:
- pain in the jaw, neck or back
- nausea and feeling light headed
- shortness of breath
- extreme fatigue.
High levels of emotional stress and physical activity have been linked to SCAD heart attacks, as well as hormone fluctuations that come with pregnancy, a new baby or menopause. So while it’s easier said than done, do take stock of your lifestyle and remember to slow down if you are feeling over-exerted.
How can you help?
To help raise awareness of SCAD heart attacks and funds for SCAD medical research, this year the first ever national 5k SCADaddle for Research is being held.
And it couldn’t be easier to get involved. Simply register or donate here to go for a 5km walk or run with friends, family members or supporters in your local area on the weekend of the 31st Oct-1st Nov. Or find out more at SCADresearch.com.au
Together, we can beat SCAD.