It's the number-one cause of heart attacks in women under age 50, as well as women who are pregnant or new mothers, and there literally aren't any warning signs--- just symptoms that should never be ignored.
Terri Sullivan looks into this emergency condition that’s affecting young women.
Linda Stark steps onto the treadmill, hits a few buttons and begins her workout
Her pink sneakers get moving as she puts her heart into her workout.
It wasn't too long ago that her heart sent her to the hospital.
Stark had pain in her arms and a little pain in her chest that went away. "I attributed it to too much coffee," she said.
She ignored it--but it came back with a vengeance.
She describes a "terrible pain in my arm and chest," numbness, and a "squeezing," "almost like somebody was taking my heart and squeezing it."
Stark was suffering from a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or "SCAD": a life-threatening condition that occurs when a tear forms in a blood vessel in the heart.
It's spontaneous. It's unpredictable. So we can't say who's going to get it, when they're going to get it," said Dr. Laxmi Mehta, director of women's cardiovascular health at OSU Wexner Medical Center.
Dr. Mehta says as blood flow is slowed or blocked entirely, the result can be a heart attack, heart rhythm abnormalities or even sudden death.
She says SCAD is seen mostly in younger women, and there really aren't any warning signs.
Some sort of chest discomfort or radiating down to the arms. Some people have just had shortness of breath, nausea, back pain. Just the typical symptoms that women can have with heart attacks," she said.
Dr. Mehta says the first line of defense is medication. More serious cases are treated with a procedure.
Even with all that, scad can recur in 30 percent of patients.
So it’s not something you fix," she said. "It’s something we kind of help the patient through, and then we need to watch them over the years, and pay attention to their symptoms.
I think the key is people need to recognize that if something is different about themselves not to ignore it," Stark said. "Definitely listen to your body. Listen to the symptoms. Go get it checked out.