HEART attacks are usually caused by high cholesterol and high blood pressure. However researchers have investigated a different type of heart attack which mainly affect young people – and affects up to 1,000 people a year in the UK. SCAD – which stands for spontaneous coronary artery dissection – happens when one or more of the inner layers of a coronary artery tears away from the outer layer. Studies have linked SCAD attacks to severe emotional stress caused by events such as sudden death in the family, extreme physical exercise and labour during pregnancy. Blood is able to flow into the space between the layers and a blood clot forms, reducing the flow of blood through the artery, leading in some cases to a potentially fatal heart attack. The condition is unusual because it mainly occurs in younger people with few or no risk factors for heart disease, 70 per cent of them women.
Heart attack: Experts looked at the risk factors for SCAD Around 30 per cent of those affected are nearing the end of a pregnancy or have recently given birth. “SCAD is unusual because, unlike other heart attacks where the coronary arteries get plugged up over time with cholesterol deposits, it’s caused by a sudden tear where the coronary artery simply falls apart,” said Dr Rahul Potluri, lead researcher. Research by cardiologists at Aston Medical School, Aston University in Birmingham, UK and the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada used the ACALM Big Data algorithm to discover the incidence of Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, or SCAD. Studying more than 33,000 patients with heart attack over a period of 15 years, they found 0.54 per cent were due to SCAD. With over 188,000 heart attacks each year in the UK, this means approximately 1,000 may be due to SCAD.
Help Prevent Heart Attack- Express Health SCAD is unusual because, unlike other heart attacks where the coronary arteries get plugged up over time with cholesterol deposits Dr Potluri Furthermore, 10.4 per cent of SCAD victims died from the condition – equating to around 100 deaths a year in the UK. The findings also shed new light on the characteristics of SCAD sufferers. They tend to be younger than other heart attack victims, with an average age of 52, compared to 66 for other heart attack sufferers. But SCAD victims also display much lower rates of known risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol levels or hypertension – making them much harder to identify. On the other hand, by tracking SCAD sufferers over such a long period of time, the study shows SCAD victims were much less likely to need major surgery or die from the condition than other heart attack sufferers.
Early warning signs of a heart attack
Around 90 per cent of people with SCAD were still alive five years after their first hospitalisation. “Using the Big Data available to us at the ACALM study unit, we’ve been able to conduct the largest ever study on the incidence, risk factors and long-term impact of SCAD,” said Dr Potluri. “Although we believe there’s still significant under-reporting of SCAD, this study equips us with the most comprehensive picture of prevalence we’ve ever had. “It’s also seen in a much different group of people – typically young women, many of them either pregnant or shortly after giving birth.
Heart attack: High blood pressure and cholesterol isn’t an indicator of SCAD risk “We believe that emotional and hormonal factors play a big part in SCAD attacks, although the exact cause will vary from person to person.” Dr Kevin Bainey, research interventional cardiologist said experts need to get better at identifying SCAD to prevent hospitalisations and deaths. He added: “Using the Big Data at our disposal, we will be able to look at hundreds of different risk factors in detail to find the strongest predictors. “Because the overall prevalence of SCAD is low – despite being individually devastating for victims and their families – we need to look across vast datasets to gather enough information to spot the signs – hence the benefits of big data.” This comes after it was revealed drinking alcohol can lead to heart attacks.