Oct. 25, 2021 -- Michele DeMarco was 33 years old when she woke up one Saturday morning with what felt like an elephant on her chest. She didn’t feel well the night before, but she tried not to worry. After all, she was fit, healthy, and young.

By Monday she could barely walk. She sat in the emergency department for 45 minutes, where the doctors told her she was having a panic attack. But after tests showed she was having a heart attack, she was given multiple drug tests. She had never experimented with substances beyond wine, but they had no other explanation for a woman her age, in perfect health, suffering a serious heart attack.

“They thought I was addicted to cocaine. They didn’t know what to do,” DeMarco, now 47, remembers. “They gave me about 11 medications and released me on a hope and a prayer.”

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Yoga Moves That Help Improve Heart HealthFlow through a few moves to open up your chest and improve circulation and heart health.750

SPEAKER: This is Yoga

For Your Heart.



These moves boost circulation

and help increase your energy.

Come over to your mat,

and sit on your heels.

Take your hands and just put

your hands on your heart.

Just send an intention

of healing to your heart.



Just stepping the right leg

forward, bent knee into a Low

Lunge.

Left leg back.

Knees on the ground.



You can stay here

with fingertips on the ground

or lift the fingertips

to the sky.



Moving into a long leg,

straighten the right leg, bowing

over toward the knee.



Bend the knee.

Plant the left hand

on the floor.

Lift the right arm to the sky.



We're going to do this three

times.

So come back to your Low Lunge.

Hands up, if you'd like.

Breathing through.



Lengthening the right leg.

You're really stretching

the hamstrings there.



Coming into the Twist,

left hand on the ground.

Right arm to the sky.

Opening up

the intercostal muscles

along the ribs.



Coming right back to the center.

Breathing deeply.

These poses help to bring more

oxygen into the bloodstream.



One more into the twist.

Left hand on the ground.

Right arm to the sky.



Stepping back.

We're going to do this

on the other side.

Left leg through.

Right leg long.

Easy on the knee.

Either staying Low Lunge,

hands on the floor,

or reach the hands

up to the sky.



Do Runners Lunge, lengthening

the hamstrings, folding over.

Peel the toes back

toward the face.



As you move into the Twist,

right hand on the mat.

Left arm to the sky.



Come back to center.

Lift arms.

When the arms are overhead,

you are gently energizing

the heart.



And once more into the Runners

Lunge.



Moving into the Twist,

right hand to the floor.

Left arm to the sky.

Back to center.

You do that three times

on each side.



Stepping back, take the legs

back into a Down Dog Pose.

Take a deep breath

into the center of the heart.

Lift the tailbone.



Take the right leg to the sky,

3-Legged Dog.

Bend the knee.

Open up through the hip.

And flex the right foot.



Straighten the leg.

Start to bring it through step.

Step the right foot

to the ground.

Bending the knee.

Easy.

Ground that back heel

into Warrior 2 Pose.



Your arms are parallel

to the legs.

Just gaze out

over the right fingertips.

And then lifting the arms up,

touching palms on the inhale.

Exhale back to Warrior 2.



We're doing this a few times.

Arms overhead.

Arms back to Warrior 2.



One more arms overhead.

Back to Warrior 2.



Take your hands to the floor.

Move into a High Twist.

Left hand to the floor.

Right arm to the sky.



Stepping back to Down Dog.

Open through the shoulders.

Left leg to the sky,

3-Legged Dog.



Bending the knee.

Open up the left hip.



As you straighten the leg,

just slide it through.

Move into Warrior 2.



Strong legs.

Strong heart.

Lift up straightening

the front leg.

You can touch palms, or just

reach the arms to the sky.



On the in-breath,

back to Warrior 2.

Inhale.

Lengthen the arms overhead.

Exhale.

Warrior 2.



Come back into your high Runners

Lunge.

Move into the Twist.

Right hand to the floor.

Left arm unfurls to the sky.



Look at your front toe.

Step back.

Easy into Down Dog.



Lengthening the back

of the legs.

Grounding the fingers

into the mat.

Stepping the right leg forward.

Arms in line with the legs.

Straightening the front leg.



Start to move into Triangle

Pose.

Right hand goes anywhere

on the right leg.

You can put it on your thigh,

or right by the knee,

or you can move the arm longer

down toward the toes.



Left arm to the sky.

Strong legs.

Long spine.



Reach up through the torso.

Just step the back leg

in a little bit.

Turn the hips forward.



Left arm to the sky.

Right hand on the right hip.

And take the left hand

over for Reverse Triangle.



You can have the hand

on the thigh, or on the knee,

below the knee, anyplace that's

comfortable for you.

You want to keep the spine long.



Focus on the breath.



Step back to the front

of the mat.

Stepping your right leg back.

We'll do the Triangle

on the other side.

Lengthening the left leg.



The left arm comes out anywhere

on the left leg.

Right arm to the sky.



Anchor yourself

with that back leg,

strong and steady.



Step the right leg forward.

Square your hips off.

Right arm to the sky.

Left arm on the hip.

Just take the right hand,

planting it on the right leg

anywhere as the left hand goes

to the sky.



You're getting a deep Twist

here.

It's said to be soothing

to the spinal nerves

of the body.



Step back to the front

of your mat.

And then open up

for a wide-legged stance.

Arms out in line with the legs.

Hands on the hips as you

fold the torso

through that triangle

in the legs.



Place your hands on the floor.

Right arm on the floor.

Left arm to the sky.



Wide-Legged Twist.



If your hand doesn't reach

the floor, you can also put

a pillow or a block there.

Left hand to the floor.

Right arm to the sky.



You can also keep the left hand

on the leg, if your hand doesn't

reach the floor.



Clasp your hands behind you.

We're squeezing the shoulders

here, bringing your shoulder

heads together.



You can also box your elbows,

if this pose is too

difficult for you.

Just give a good squeeze

to the shoulders,

opening up the front

of the chest,

the muscles along the front

of the chest, and the heart.



And slow and study, take

the hands to the waist,

and just gently come up

through the torso.

Turn your feet back to the front

of the mat.

Step back into Mountain Pose.



Put your hands to the heart,

and just take a squat.

Take a squat to the ground.

Heels can be on the mat or off.



Find a seat.

Left leg long.

Bend your right knee.



Reach out

toward that front foot.

Reaching out to the left foot.

The aim here is Knee to Nose.

You can put your hands

around the foot.



You can put your hands

on the floor, or on the leg.

Just really relax.

Relaxing the back, the spinal

nerves.

Relaxing the heart.



As you lengthen the hamstrings,

you're relaxing the shoulders.



Move into the other side,

as you bend the knee, left knee.

Just get your seat oriented.



Lengthen that right leg.

Flex the foot as you reach

toward the foot.

Hands anywhere.

Really relax the upper body.



As you relax, you'll go deeper

into the pose.

Stay for three to five breaths.



And we're taking this cushion.

You can use any type of cushion.

This is a yoga bolster.

You can also use a couch

cushion, or a rolled up blanket,

or a pillow.

And just sync it up

to your tailbone.



Legs are long and relaxed so

that your feet flop out to Fish

Pose.

This is Supported Fish.

So you're getting a backbend.



If you want a little extra boost

for the heart, you can put arms

overhead.

Box your elbows.

Take deep breaths

into the lungs, helping

to increase lung capacity here.



Lengthening the arm bones,

relax the shoulders.

Creating more space

in the whole area of the front

of the chest.

That area that we often compress

when we're seated.

So you're really opening up

that heart space here today.



And if you'd like to try Fish

without any cushion,

you can do it this way, where

you actually sit on the back

of your wrists,

palms on the ground.



Legs are just stretched out.

Flop your feet out, and then

roll up onto your elbows.

Most of the weight

is on the elbows.

Just lightly touch the top

of the head to the mat.



This is a more advanced stretch

for the muscles along the front

of the body.

You can see the neck.

Lengthening the neck very easy.



When you first come out,

first put the neck and head

on the floor.

Then release the arms

and shoulders.



You can end this sequence

by putting hands on the heart,

sending some love to your heart.



Arms by your side.

Take a rest.

Make sure you allow yourself

some time to rest.

3 to 5 minutes in the Resting

Pose.

Kelley Colihan Robertson.<br> AudioJungle./delivery/c9/2c/c92cc68c-b49b-4d7b-b525-1825f7d79179/yoga-for-your-heart_,1000k,4500k,2500k,750k,400k,.mp412/28/2017 15:46:00650350sunset background/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/article_thumbnails/video/yoga_for_your_heart_video/650x350_yoga_for_your_heart_video.jpg091e9c5e818b1d10

What DeMarco was experiencing was spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD, a potentially deadly tear that forms in a blood vessel in the heart.

The condition can slow or block blood flow to the heart, which leads to heart attacks, heart rhythm abnormalities, or sudden death.

Unlike SCAD, regular heart attacks are often caused by plaque buildup, blood clot, or spasm.

Like DeMarco, people who have SCAD are usually young women without previous risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol.

DeMarco had to two more SCAD heart attacks, with one occurring just days after the first. Ten years later, she had another -- almost exactly to the day.

Stories of health care professionals dismissing SCAD patients are far too common, says Sharonne N. Hayes, MD, director of Mayo’s SCAD Research Program. Though people of any sex and age can experience it, it is more common in women between 30 and 60.

“Like a regular heart attack, patients may experience a range of symptoms like chest pressure, pain, and shortness of breath. But what’s different is who’s having it,” Hayes says. “We don’t expect a 22-year-old to have heart attack symptoms.”

Hayes recalled a video visit she had with a patient: A Black woman in her early 30s called 911 after excruciating heart attack symptoms. The first responders insisted it was not a heart attack and left the scene.

Three hours later, the woman’s husband drove her to the hospital, where a battery of tests concluded she had SCAD.

Because the health of women, especially women of color, is so often neglected by the health care system, there is little collective knowledge on this condition.

“About 20 or 30 years ago, women were not included in clinical trials,” Hayes said. “There are conditions affecting women that we have far fewer answers and treatments for. If professionals don't understand it, it's very easy to dismiss it.”

Though SCAD causes a small percentage of heart attacks, it is responsible for more than 35% of heart attacks in women younger than age 50, according to research from the American Heart Association. The average SCAD patient is about 42 years old.

Risk factors include:

  • Recent childbirth
  • Underlying blood vessel conditions including fibromuscular dysplasia, which causes irregular growth of cells in artery walls
  • Hereditary connective tissue diseases like vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan syndrome
  • High blood pressure

In recent years, researchers have found that SCAD is likely more common than previously thought, says Deepak Bhatt, MD, executive director of interventional cardiovascular programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. But because it has been underrecognized and underdiagnosed, he says, past cases were likely chalked up to regular heart attacks.

It is important to differentiate SCAD heart attacks from other types, Bhatt says. For a run-of-the-mill heart attack, patients will often have a stent or balloon inserted to open the artery. But in SCAD patients, the artery can be delicate and sometimes unraveled.

Other treatment options include daily aspirin along with blood pressure medications to reduce the heart’s demand for blood.

But because there is a dearth of randomized research on the topic, Bhatt says, it is mostly observational.

Hayes encourages people who might be experiencing SCAD, particularly young women, to speak up for themselves in health care settings, even when doctors are hesitant to listen.

“Say out loud, ‘These are heart attack symptoms.’ Maybe they’ll give exceptional care off the bat, and if not, maybe they will grudgingly test you further,” Hayes says. “Say what you really feel, and if you're about to be dismissed without much of a workup, that's when you refuse to leave.”

WebMD Health News

Sources

Mayoclinic.org.

Ahajournals.org.

Michele DeMarco. 

Sharonne N. Hayes, MD, director, SCAD Research Program, Mayo Clinic.

Deepak Bhatt,  MD, executive director of interventional cardiovascular programs, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.

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