Information - Sudden Death
Sudden death is actually quite common. Thirty thousand Canadians die suddenly every year, and 90 percent of people who collapse and die can’t be saved. A patient suddenly drops to the floor and the heart rhythm increases – often up to 200 or 300 beats a minute. After several minutes of a very fast rhythm the patient flatlines and dies.
Causes of Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest can be caused by coronary artery disease. Cardiomyopathy, which is a problem with the heart muscle, can also lead to sudden death. About 10% of people have a cause that’s driven by an inherited (genetic) cause. Genes are the instructions for the building blocks of our body. They allow our bodies to grow and develop and function properly.
There are two main ways in which genes can cause conditions that can predispose to sudden cardiac death. One involves the heart’s electrical system and causes fatal arrhythmias, such as long QT syndrome or Brugada syndrome. The second way is genes that are involved in the heart muscle cells, which can cause heart muscle diseases and lead to fatal arrhythmias. One of the most common examples is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle is thicker than expected.
Heart Disease Symptoms & Treatments
Patients may see a physician if they experience a symptom such as a fainting spell. Other patients may find out they have a heart condition following a heart test. Or, a patient may see a healthcare provider after a family member suffers a cardiac condition that may be inherited. Tests for heart conditions are usually quite simple, starting with tests of the heart’s wires or electrical system. The one everyone knows well is an EKG - a heart monitor. Cardiologists may look at pictures of the heart muscle or order an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart. A patient may undergo a genetic test to look at the code that programs the wires in the heart. Treatments may include taking daily medication, avoiding certain medications that may make the condition worse, or lifestyle changes relating to exercise and activity. Patients who have a more severe case of heart disease may require an implantable defibrillator or ICD.
Talk to your cardiologist if you'd like more information on sudden death.
Visit HealthChoicesFirst.com for more videos and resources on heart health.
Print this Action Plan and check off items that you want to discuss with your healthcare provider
Sudden cardiac arrest can be caused by coronary artery disease, which is a problem with the arteries.
About 10% of people who die suddenly do so because of an inherited (genetic) cause.
Cardiomyopathy, which is a problem with the heart muscle, can also lead to sudden death.
Patients may see a physician if they experience a symptom such as a fainting spell, following a heart test or after a family member suffers a cardiac condition that may be inherited.
Treatments for heart conditions may include taking daily medication, avoiding certain medications that might make the condition worse, or lifestyle changes relating to exercise and activity.