Stressed younger women at risk of heart attacks

More than 1000 people a year, many young women, may be falling victim to stress-related heart attacks, new research suggests.

Cardiologists found women were most at risk from the condition, which has been linked to emotional stress caused by events such as a family bereavement, as well as the exertion of extreme exercise, pregnancy or labour.

While the average age of victims was found to be 52 – compared to 66 for other heart attack sufferers – about 30% of cases involved women who were nearing the end of a pregnancy or had recently given birth.

The research, carried out at Aston Medical School, Aston University in Birmingham, and the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, is the first major study to establish the incidence of spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD).

The findings come from a study of more than 33000 heart attack victims.

After tracking cases over 15 years, researchers found that 0.54% were due to SCAD. With more than 188000 heart attacks a year in the UK, this means about 1000 may be due to the condition. In total, 10.4% of SCAD victims died from the condition – equating to about 100 deaths a year in the UK.

The condition occurs when one or more of the inner layers of a coronary artery tears away from the outer layer. Blood is able to flow into the space between the layers and a blood clot forms, reducing the flow through the artery, leading in some cases to a potentially fatal heart attack.

Dr Rahul Potluri, from Aston University, said: “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.” – The Sunday Telegraph

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