By taking just five minutes to complete Adventist HealthCare’s online heart risk assessment as part of our Every Beat Counts campaign, Jaree Donnelly of Gaithersburg was the lucky winner of a 2015 GT Backwoods Sport Mountain Bike from Performance Bicycle of Rockville!

Jaree Donnelly of Gaithersburg

Jaree Donnelly of Gaithersburg

Through the Every Beat Counts campaign, Adventist HealthCare, Performance Bicycle and WTOP Radio partnered to empower community members to discover their risk for heart disease and keep their heart health top of mind.

After completing the online heart risk assessment, participants receive a full report calculating their 10 and 30-year risk for heart disease, as well as a personalized plan to improve their heart health. The assessment takes into account key risk factors for heart disease such as family history, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity.

“My risk is higher than the average woman my age,” Jaree, 49, shared with us. But not for reasons you may be expecting. Despite having low blood pressure, low cholesterol, eating a healthy diet and exercising most days of the week, Jaree suffered from a heart attack at age 44 because of a rare condition called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD).

SCAD occurs when a tear forms in one of the blood vessels in the heart. This can slow or block blood flow to the heart, thus causing a heart attack, abnormalities in heart rhythm or sudden death. This rare emergency condition tends to affect people ages 30 to 50, though it can occur at any age.

“Patients presenting with SCAD often times don’t have the typical cardiac risk factors, as was the case with Jaree” said Dr. Daisy Lazarous, cardiologist with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group. “That’s what makes recognizing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack so crucial for SCAD patients.”

“I was so lucky. I recognized the signs that something was wrong and I got to the hospital right away”, said Jaree, who experienced nausea, pain between the shoulders, and indigestion that got worse over time.

Know the signs:

  • Chest Discomfort: Pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain for more than a few minutes, or goes away and returns.
  • Discomfort: In one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of Breath: With or without chest discomfort.
  • Other Signs: Cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.

“I was given a second chance and I don’t take it for granted,” said Jaree. “I do make every day and every beat count. I continue to exercise, eat healthy and enjoy what life brings my way. With my new bike, I am going to be able to ride the trails with my family and friends, which will be a fun, new adventure!”

“I compliment Jaree who has recognized that the key to a healthy heart is through exercise, eating right and not smoking, and actively partnering with your physician to improve your cardiac risk factors,” added Dr. Lazarous.

How will you make every beat count?

Take five minutes and learn your heart risk today, and receive a personalized plan to improve your heart health.