- Below Deck: Mediterranean star Sandy Yawn, a.k.a. Captain Sandy, revealed that she had a heart attack within the last two years.
- Yawn was in a SoulCycle class when she starting feeling “odd.”
- Yawn later learned that she had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). Here’s what that means and the symptoms she experienced.
Below Deck: Mediterranean star Sandy Yawn, a.k.a. Captain Sandy, just shared scary news with fans: She had a heart attack within the last two years. Yawn, 54, made the revelation during an interview with People, where she got incredibly candid about the experience and the symptoms she experienced. According to Yawn, she was in a SoulCycle class in Los Angeles when she starting feeling “odd.”
“I remember thinking I was going to clip off the bike so I don’t fall, I didn’t want to disrupt the class, and I certainly wasn’t going to call 911 in the middle of Beverly Hills,” she said. “So I decided to call an Uber, and then I called my sister—and I survived.”
Yawn later learned that she had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), which is a tear in the heart’s blood vessels. According to Yawn, it happened because she had “unchecked” high blood pressure. She spent four days in the hospital and couldn’t do SoulCycle for 12 weeks afterward.
Now, Yawn said she’s feeling “great” but emphasizes it is “misleading to think that you have to be unhealthy to have a heart attack.” Yawn later went on Twitter to explain that she didn’t share the news of her heart attack sooner because she hadn’t fully processed it:
TY for the outpouring of love & concern. I didn't share sooner b/c I was still getting my head around what happened to me. It was really hard for me. Now creating awareness abt the signs & encouraging ppl to be proactive abt #HeartHealth. #HeartMonth https://t.co/bxmLPeKFaY— Captain Sandy Yawn (@CaptSandyYawn) February 21, 2020
“My veins are clean,” she explained. “I didn’t have blockage, it was a tear.” So, what exactly is SCAD and what are the symptoms to be aware of? Here are the signs Yawn experienced, and expert input on why it can happen to healthy people.
What is SCAD and how common is it?
To understand SCAD, it’s important to know a little bit about your heart’s anatomy. Your coronary arteries arise from your aorta (the main artery of your body) and supply blood to your heart, the American Heart Association (AHA) explains. They have three layers. A dissection happens when two of these layers separate, allowing blood to flow into the space between the layers. As blood builds up, it can block your heart’s normal blood flow, causing chest pain, a heart attack, or even death.
What are the major symptoms of SCAD?
Yawn said that she “could not swallow. … I was watching my heart rate on my watch and it didn’t go down, and I started to feel lightheaded. I didn’t have any numbness, then when I got off my bike and walked outside, I started to feel the tingle in my left arm, exactly how described.”
Here are other signs of SCAD to keep on your radar:
This is the most common symptom, according to Jennifer Lewey, M.D., director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Program at Penn Medicine. “Some people might describe this as chest pressure, tightness, or general discomfort,” she says.
Pain in the middle of your chest
SCAD pain is usually located in the middle of the chest and can radiate to your throat, jaw, shoulder, or back, Dr. Lewey says.
Feeling like something is wrong
“When someone experiences SCAD, they are having a heart attack, which means the heart isn’t getting enough blood,” Dr. Lewey explains. “In addition to the ‘typical’ heart attack symptoms, many people describe feeling that something just isn’t right. This is likely due to the response of all of the sudden changes occurring in the body.”
Some people might also feel short of breath, sweaty, nauseous, or vomit, Dr. Lewey says. Trouble swallowing, like Yawn experienced, is likely a side effect of having trouble breathing, Dr. Lewey says.
Why can SCAD occur in healthy people?
It’s not totally clear. “We suspect that there may be an association with hormonal changes, because SCAD is much more common in women and there is an increased risk of developing it with pregnancy,” Dr. Lewey says. There are also some links between SCAD and vigorous exercise or going through a stressful event, she adds.
Is there any way to prevent SCAD?
If you’ve never had SCAD before, there’s no known way to prevent it. But, for people like Yawn who have had a heart attack due to SCAD, regularly working with a cardiologist and taking medications may help, Dr. Lewey says. “One in five patients will experience a recurrence, so it’s critical for patients to adhere to a plan that helps them mitigate their risk,” she says.
Ultimately, there’s a lot doctors don’t know about SCAD—but they’re working on it. “There are several ongoing research studies for patients with SCAD that will help us better understand what causes it and how to prevent it in the future,” Dr. Lewey says. In the meantime, following a heart-healthy diet, staying active, getting enough sleep, and reducing your stress levels can all go a long way in keeping your ticker happy.
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