Pre-existing conditions and causes: why sudden cardiac death affects young people


Sudden cardiac death not only affects older people – young people can also die unexpectedly. What could be the underlying causes.

Berlin – Millions of people worldwide die from sudden cardiac death every year – in Germany are they according to that German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) about 65,000 per year. That is around 20 percent of all cardiovascular deaths – a good third of them are younger than 65 years. explains which causes and previous illnesses in young people can trigger sudden cardiac death.

24-year-old dies unexpectedly from SADS – “ten minutes later there was no pulse”

The reason for this question a few months ago was a young stewardess who died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 24 from the so-called “Sudden Adult/Arrhythmic Death Syndrome” (SADS). “This 24-year-old woman was a cabin crew member on a flight from Albania and was on the tarmac when she passed out and was given basic first aid,” coroner Michelle Brown told the British tabloid dailymail. Ten minutes later there was no pulse and cardiopulmonary resuscitation began. The young woman could not be saved.

65,000 Germans die from it every year: what makes sudden cardiac death different from SADS

As with the stewardess, sudden cardiac death seems to be completely unexpected – but it is often preceded by long-term cardiovascular disease. At this point, however, a distinction must first be made between “Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome” (translated: sudden arrhythmic death syndrome) and sudden cardiac death (“Sudden Cardiac Death”/SCD).

Again Focus reported, in SADS the obvious cause of the sudden cardiac arrest cannot be clarified at autopsy. The structure of the heart does not show any abnormalities. In the case of sudden cardiac death, however, the cause of death can be determined by means of an autopsy. This can be blocked arteries after a heart attack, for example. By the way, what you should currently be aware of are heart attack tips on WhatsApp.

How does sudden cardiac death announce itself – and can you survive it?

Sudden cardiac death is immediately triggered by a malignant cardiac arrhythmia, also known as ventricular fibrillation. According to the DZHK, the circulatory system of the affected person collapses within a few seconds, the heart stops beating and the blood pressure drops to zero. A few seconds later, the person becomes unconscious, a few minutes later, breathing stops, and after about ten minutes, death occurs.

There is only a chance of survival if countermeasures are started immediately. However, for every minute that the heart stops, the chance of survival decreases by ten percent.

Causes of sudden cardiac death: Which previous illnesses are common at which age

The most common pre-existing condition in the event of sudden cardiac death is the DZHK according to coronary heart disease. The coronary arteries in the affected person are narrowed. Dietrich Andresen, former CEO of the German Heart Foundation, can also confirm this. “Sudden cardiac death is usually the complication of a long-standing cardiovascular disease, also known as coronary artery disease,” explains Andresen Focus and adds: “The best protection against sudden cardiac death is therefore protection against coronary artery disease.”

Coronary heart disease occurs – often as a result of other diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and dyslipidemia – but most often in people over 40 years of age. Cardiac hypertrophy (HCM), a genetic disease, is one of the most common reasons for sudden cardiac death in young people. The DZHK according to 1 in 500 people has the genetic traits for HCM. In the disease, the musculature of the heart thickens due to excessive growth of heart muscle cells.

In addition, other diseases such as myocarditis and congenital heart defects can also lead to sudden cardiac death in young people. Again Focus reported, the use of drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines in younger people can also be a cause of SCD.

Drugs also play a role in causing sudden cardiac death

In principle, in addition to these causes and previous illnesses, sudden cardiac death can be caused by any disease that triggers cardiac arrhythmia. According to the DZHK, in 80 percent of cases these cardiac arrhythmias are caused by an unforeseeable heart attack.

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Sudden cardiac death should be taken seriously at any age – and SADS especially at a young age: Because, according to Danish researchers in a study found that the proportion of people who died from sudden arrhythmic death syndrome decreased with age – although the syndrome was responsible for a significant proportion of deaths in all age groups studied between one and 49 years.

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