Sudden Cardiac Death is as frightening as it sounds, often striking young athletes who collapse and die while playing sports. But a new study has found that sports and exercise are not to blame in most cases, but underlying — and undiagnosed — heart disease is the culprit.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia who reviewed coroners' reports on 174 cases of SCD death in Ontario in 2008 — in people aged 2 to 40 years — found that 72 percent of victims had underlying heart disease. In nearly 8 in 10 cases, the heart disease was undiagnosed and victims were far more likely to be men between the ages of 18 and 40. SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
What’s more, 33 percent of SCD cases involved children or adolescents and just 9 percent involved adults engaged in moderate or vigorous exercise.
Dr. Andrew Krahn, who led and presented the study at a meeting of the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto this week, said the findings dispel the idea that SCD often takes place during rigorous physical activity — a myth he blames on widespread media coverage of such cases.
"Put it this way: If you have a 13-year-old kid who is not the star athlete who 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.
"This research gives us an idea of the scope of the problem … The question is: How can we catch this before it happens?"
He suggested more attention be paid to possible warning signs of underlying heart disease such as fainting. CPR training and the placement of Automatic External Defibrillators in schools, arenas and gyms could also save many lives. SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.