Hidden disease, not sports behind sudden cardiac arrestPublished On: Tue, Oct 30th, 2012 | Cardiovascular / Cardiology | By BioNews
Undetected heart disease and not sports is to be blamed for sudden cardiac arrests in young and fit people, say researchers.
It is often reported that a young, healthy and fit athlete suddenly collapsed and died of cardiac arrest in the field, suggesting that it is the rigorous physical activity that caused the tragedy. But Andrew Krahn of the University of British Columbia, Canada, seeks to dispel the myth.
“Our research gives us an idea of the scope of the problem – there are almost 200 young people who die suddenly every year in Ontario. A good proportion of them have unrecognised heart disease. So the question is: How can we catch this before it happens,” says Krahn.
He suggests that more attention be paid to possible warning signs such as fainting. He believes that teachers, coaches and an aware public may be key to detecting risk, ensuring prevention and formal medical evaluation and therapy.
“I would advocate for careful screening of people who faint, using questionnaires and education of healthcare professionals so that when warning signs present themselves, they recognise them and this information gets passed on to the right people,” he says.
Reviewing coroners’ reports, Krahn and his team found there were 174 cases of presumed sudden death in Ontario in 2008 in people aged two to 40 years. Heart disease was present in 126 cases (72 percent) – 78 percent of which was unrecognised.
The majority of victims were male (76 percent) between 18 and 40 years of age (90 percent), according to a British Columbia statement.
Only 33 percent of events involving children/adolescents and just nine percent of events in adults occurred during moderate or vigorous exercise.
“Put it this way: If you have a 13-year-old kid who is not the star athlete and dies at home watching TV, it doesn’t make the news,” said Krahn. “But if the same kid is a high school quarterback or hockey star, then it’s covered.”
Still, there are other measures that could potentially save lives, feels Beth Abramson, a Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher. Training in CPR and the placement of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) in schools, arenas and gyms could save the lives of many of these people, she says.
These findings were presented at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Ontario, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.