What to know about SCAD, a leading cause of heart attacks for young women

The condition is "more common in women" and "can be fatal," Dr. Ashton said.
5:58 | 02/20/18

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Transcript for What to know about SCAD, a leading cause of heart attacks for young women
We have an important health alert about you alittle-known cause of heart attacks. The symptoms are often misdiagnosed as anxiety but it is responsible for nearly half of all heart attacks in women under the age of 50. So Dr. Jen is going to break it all down with some brand-new revolutionary technology. I spoke with her the other day and I'll share that conversation in a moment but first two women who experienced it. I live every day as if it were my last because that could have been my last. They say life can change in a minute. It did. Reporter: For more rthem it ended with a heart attack. Two years ago Morin gave birth to a daughter. We were very excited of the she was healthy and I felt great. Reporter: The weeks following were stressful and while her blood pressure was mildly elevated her daughter saw her and sent her home with medication. It was a week later five weeks after delivery when things went horribly wrong. I felt like pressure, possibly gas, acid reflux. I wasn't sure what it was. The baby was having a hard time nursing. One of my arms went numb. I started getting nauseous. Cold sweats. Reporter: She called her husband. Something is wrong. And I think I need help. Reporter: Trisha Sullivan says she has never been much of an athlete. I thought, well, I can ride a bike so I made it my personal goal to really get into bike riding to stay healthy. Reporter: So the first grade teacher decided to do a bike ride for a cause. I was bound and determined to do this 100 miles. Reporter: After training extensively she was ready but early on in the ride something wasn't right. I just kept dropping back. I couldn't keep up. I was short of breath. But we all chocked it up to nerves. Reporter: She rode only 57 of the 100 miles that day. Three days later experiencing sore airports and heartburn and that night in bed her world went fuzzy That's when I screamed to my husband and as I did that, I fell. I passed out and I heard like a loud crash and I realized I had hit my head on the nightstand. Reporter: What both experienced was a little known type of heart attack called sponge takenous coronary artery dissection or scad. The doctors explained it to me. I had never heart of it. That is this? And Dr. Jen Ashton joins us now. These two women, they reached out to you last year. They wanted to share their story, robin, because most people have heard of heart attacks but the ones caused by a blockage of the artery, this is something different. It's called scad and more common in women the different cause, same end result. This can kill heart muscle and can be fatal. Not a lot of people know about this. They don't which is why I'm so glad we're talking about it. To explain how scat occurs we'll do something that we've never done before on "Gma" and take a step into 3D and use augmented reality so let me introduce you to the newest member of the "Gma" family. Would you please welcome Gemma. She's my new patient. High gosh. First of all we have to tell people how Gemma the name. Gma. If you kind of sound it out, okay. I missed that but. We thought it was -- we want -- she's going to help us understand heart attacked caused by corps Farry artery disease and by scad. Let's start with the traditional type of heart attack, robin. If you look inside her heart, of course, we know there are blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood. You can see this plaque as yellow. It can rupture or break off. When it does that red blood cell as tach to it and it can clog off that artery, killing the muscle downstream which you see there in Gemma's beating heart as black. Scad is different. When you go inside her heart, the key words are artery dissection. Three layers to the wall of this blood vessel. They tear away from each other trapping blood in between those layers. You get the same end result, that blood vessel gets clogged off, kills the heart muscle downstream, again, it's black there and it can be fatal. So what are the signs we should look for. Your job is not to distinguish is this a heart attack caused by skachcad. They can be lightheadness, sweating, pain radiating in the neck back or jaw, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue or pain radiating down one or both airports. If you feel these symptoms you need to call 911 and get to an emergency room immediately. Anything you can do to prevent it. We don't know what causes it totally so therefore you can't really talk about prevention. We know it's more common I women. There may be a hormonal aspect to it because it can surround pregnancy as we heard in the taped piece and then there was a thinking that some people who have scad, male or female have a problem with the integrity of the walls of their blood vessels. Either way the key is recognizing symptoms and getting prompt treatment because that can be life saving. Oh, boy and this is -- this is revolutionary for us. It's amazing, right. Gemma. Gemma. So thank you, Jen and thank you, Gemma. Thank you very much and we're going to look forward to using her and -- we're not going to use you but using her -- Seal's be helping us. Helping us to explain different things. It's great. We appreciate that so we'll spend time with Gemma in the future. We'll be back.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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