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Exercise may not be the cause of sudden cardiac death in young people

Category: General Health

New research conducted by Andrew Krahn, M.D., of the University of British Columbia and presented at 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Ontario, reveals that sports may not be the culprit when someone dies of cardiac arrest.

Krahn and his team of researchers looked through coroner reports of 174 cases of people who were between 2 and 40 years old, in which cardiac arrest was the supposed cause of death. Out of all the cases, 126 of the subjects had heart disease, and in nearly 78 percent of those subjects, the heart disorder was not recognized until they had died.

The study revealed that exercise was not the most likely cause of cardiac arrest, and that 72 percent of the fatalities occurred while the subjects were at home, while 33 percent occurred while the subjects were engaging in moderate to vigorous exercise. According to Krahn, the myth that exercise is a common cause of cardiac arrest may be attributed to the fact that deaths that occur mid-sport tend to be heavily covered by the media.

"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."

Krahn noted that annually, nearly 200 young people suddenly die in Ontario, and a large portion of the fatalities can be attributed to undiagnosed heart disease. He believes the key to curbing these numbers is for teachers and coaches to recognize signs of heart disease, such as fainting, and for kids to get screened for cardiovascular disorders.

Cardiac arrest statistics
According to the American Heart Association, cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical impulses in the heart speed up or happen randomly, which causes the heart to cease beating.  Every year there are nearly 383,000 cardiac arrests, 88 percent of which occur at the victim's home.

The Mayo Clinic reports that some risk factors for cardiac arrest include smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, inactive lifestyle, alcohol abuse and diabetes, which can detected with a lab test. A person has increased risk of cardiac arrest if they have a family history of congenital heart defects, heart failure or other heart diseases. Also, as one's age increases, so does their risk cardiac arrest.

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