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Kansas City woman survives deadly heart condition most commonly affecting women

Two women sit inside a radio studio. The one on the right is talking and gesturing. The one on the left is looking at her and listening.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Dr. Anna Grodzinsky, a cardiologist at St. Luke's Hospital, tells what doctors know about spontaneous coronary artery dissection, a heart condition that can affect young healthy women.

During heart health awareness month, a cardiologist shares what's known about SCAD, a condition that led one woman to suffer three cardiac events in three years. It's the leading cause of heart attacks in women under 50.

Despite being a healthy, active 45-year-old with no family history of heart disease, Nancy Holland went into cardiac arrest while out to dinner in 2017.

The idea of cardiac arrest didn't seem plausible to Holland.

"I never believed that a heart situation could have impact me," says Holland. "I thought I was too healthy for those kinds of things to happen."

Three years later, Holland suffered from two heart attacks within 36 hours.

Holland was diagnosed with a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) a heart condition that largely affects women.

SCAD is an injury to the coronary artery wall restricting blood flow which can lead to heart attack symptoms.

The condition is the leading cause of heart attacks in women under 50.

"Over 90% of our patients with coronary dissection are women," said Dr. Anna Grodzinsky, a cardiologist who specializes in SCAD at the Saint Luke’s Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center.

"There's felt, for that reason, to be also a hormonal influence. We know that this is a condition that is the leading cause of heart attack around pregnancy, and frequently around perimenopause," Grodzinsky said.

SCAD is still being studied. Five years ago, "less than 50% of cardiologists surveyed noted that they were very aware of this condition," Grodzinsky said.

Holland and Grodzinsky joined Up To Date to raise awareness of SCAD and share what are thought to be risk factors of the heart condition.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
As a producer for Up To Date, my goal is to inform our audience by curating interesting and important conversations with reliable sources and individuals directly affected by a topic or issue. I strive for our program to be a place that hosts impactful conversations, providing our audience with greater knowledge, intrigue, compassion and entertainment. Contact me at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz.
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