Beth’s heart story: What you need to know about SCAD

19 Feb 2024

Beth had just given birth to a healthy baby boy when two weeks post-partum, she suffered a heart attack caused by spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD).

While the exact cause of most SCAD events is often unknown, doctors believe Beth’s SCAD may have been related to her pregnancy, with recent studies finding that hormones and other pregnancy-related changes could be responsible for weakening artery walls in some women.

The added emotional and physical stress on her body due to an infection and post-birth complications are also thought to be contributing factors.

“Prior to this and throughout my pregnancy, I was a fit, healthy 38 year-old with no traditional risk factors for a heart attack, so to say it was a shock is an understatement,” says Beth.

Beth experienced ongoing anxiety after her heart event - especially in relation to exercising and physical activity. Now in her 40s, she sought proper help for her mental health in the past year.

“For so long it had been restricting my life,” says Beth, “Overcoming my anxiety was the biggest challenge for me following my SCAD, and I know many others have experienced the same, so it’s really important to seek out support for this so you can get back on track with doing things you love.”

“I also sought the help of an amazing physio who provided guidance around safe exercise.”

As part of her ‘re-entry’ into exercise, Beth signed up for Coastrek in 2023. The 12-week training program that slowly built up her fitness for the 20km event day challenge was just what she needed - and fundraising for the Heart Foundation obviously resonated. Beth says:

“I was anxious about exercising, so the 20km Coastrek was a huge achievement for me. I was able to do this with advice from a GP, Cardiologist and physiotherapist and with hregular training to build walking endurance and confidence.

The regular training to build up to 20km was great for my physical and mental health. I trained with a teammate and good friend, we walked 10km most weekends, often along the river. Taking time out for myself and walking and talking with a friend was so good for my mental health.

Having the 20km Coastrek goal gave me the incentive to commit to training. I felt I had more energy and felt stronger and fitter through the regular walks.

The walk itself was incredible. The scenery along the Peninsula was spectacular, the team camaraderie was wonderful and uplifting, there was a lot of support along the way (snack stops and encouragement from volunteers and the Coastrek team), and it felt like a big achievement for me personally.”

Beth will return for her second Coastrek on the Mornington Peninsula this May – and she and her team are stepping up to the 30km event this time around!

“There is some trepidation, but overall I know I’m going to be well prepared and I think I’ll really enjoy taking on the 30km challenge this year!”

Fundraising from Coastrek events will support the Heart Foundation’s research into conditions like SCAD and other female specific risk factors relating to heart disease, to ensure women like Beth are a diagnosed and treated quickly and effectively.

Because SCAD mostly affects women with few traditional risk factors, awareness of and quick response to the warning signs of a heart attack is important advice for all women. Read more about SCAD here