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Living with Heart Disease FMD & SCAD

I don’t often write about my personal health adventures and living with Heart Disease, FMD and SCAD, however as I sit, in the pre-prep stage for an angiogram and coronary flow rate testing today, missing my morning caffeine and feeling vague chest pain due to stress and not taking my cardiac meds last night … it’s right in my face, I have a ‘hidden chronic health condition’ and some days it’s not fun at all!

The thing is I look fine, very healthy in fact for someone who is 60. I exercise everyday, I do yoga, heck, I’m a yoga instructor and I eat well, take supplements, take my medications exactly as prescribed, don’t drink, don’t smoke, meditate!

I look healthy on the outside but some days, I feel so awful on the inside.

I have an uncommon condition called ‘Fibromuscular Dysplasia’ (FMD) which is a disease of the vascular system and was a precipitating factor in the spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) and myocardial infarction (heart attack) I had in 2008. FMD affects my carotid artery, coronary arteries, renal arteries and iliac artery. The main area being investigated currently is my heart, although with FMD, blood flow can be slowed through all arteries showing ‘beading’ and other changes. My main symptoms of FMD are fatigue, dizziness, tinnitus, pain and tingling in legs and hands (could be a medication side effect), pain in kidneys and a myriad of chest pains and shortness of breath. The key thing I need to be aware of is my blood pressure and of course, to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Many folks don’t know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in North America and that the symptoms of a heart attack can be different for women than men. This information is super important for everyone to know!

When I had my dissection and MI,  it was during a time of great emotional stress. My symptoms were preceded by a couple of days of chest tightness, it felt like I was getting bronchitis which I had had in the past. The chest tightness increased the day of the ‘attack’, and I also developed discomfort in my right jaw and right shoulder, similar to that of a pulled muscle. Intermittently it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest (literally) and I was short of breath. I never really described myself as being in pain.

Fortunately, even though I felt like a ‘ninny having a panic attack’, I had a family member drive me to ER where I was quickly assessed and admitted. I received wonderful care and as I live in a metropolitan area with a major teaching hospital, even though it was in 2008 and SCAD was considered rare, I received an accurate diagnosis of SCAD and an appropriate treatment plan to be medically managed.

The follow up today is part of a research study to further understand SCAD.

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