Heart Attacks Can Happen at Any Age, She Was 21

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Molly Schroeder survived a heart attack when she was only 21 years old. Now she’s on a mission to help young women understand heart health isn’t something that can wait until they’re older.

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Molly Schroeder was 21 years old and in the prime of her life when she had a heart attack. Image via Go Red for Women

On September 14, 2012, Molly Schroeder decided to go for a run before her college soccer practice.

“Fridays were normally less intense days at practice, so I wanted to get in a workout first,” Schroeder told Healthline.

A passionate soccer player since she was 4 years old, being active was her norm.

“Soccer was my life. I was in shape and never had any complications until after that run,” she said.

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When Schroeder got back to her apartment, she suddenly started feeling ill.

“I took in a big breath of air and I had an annoying pain in my chest that I could feel when I exhaled, and it worsened. I could feel the blood in my face draining, too. I thought I was having an anxiety attack,” she recalled.

Just six weeks prior to that day, at 58 years old, her mom passed away from a pulmonary embolism, triggered by complications after knee surgery. Schroeder initially felt her symptoms were caused by anxiety from losing her mom.

However, as she became sweaty, cold, nauseous, and as her arms became numb, she knew something else was going on, and asked her roommate to drive her to the emergency room.

“They did an EKG and the nurse said, ‘This is crazy. It shows you’re having a heart attack, but the chances of that are 1 in 100,000,’” Schroeder recalled.

After 16 hours of testing, doctors confirmed that a blood clot had created a 90 percent blockage in one of her main coronary arteries.

Because she had a hole in her heart (atrial septal defect), which was diagnosed when she was a child, that along with the clotting were most likely the reason for her heart attack.

“When I was 12, my mom found out she had cardiomyopathy. When that happened, my brother and I went through testing to see if we would have any issues and they discovered a hole in my heart. They told me to go back in a few years to check it and at that time they determined it had closed,” said Schroeder.

“I went on thinking my heart had healed itself until I had my heart attack.”

Following her heart attack, Schroeder was prescribed medication to treat the clot. She also went through cardiac rehab. Further testing revealed that she had a genetic blood clotting disorder.

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