Sudden Cardiac Death in Young People12 Aug 2021
Sudden cardiac arrest in young people may be rare, but it does happen. Such deaths have a devastating impact on families and communities. However, there are several measures to identify risk factors and avoid tragedies.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a life-endangering crisis that occurs due to an unexpected loss of heart function, resulting in loss of consciousness and collapse. The condition can be fatal if treatment is not provided immediately. Survival outside a healthcare environment depends on prompt emergency response.
Usually, when healthy youngsters are affected by SCA, there are no medical ailments the patient or family was aware of. Young people impacted by SCA could have felt heart-related symptoms like breathlessness and chest pain that would not have been considered life-threatening; others may not have any signs of heart problems until the SCA occurs.
SCA is considered the main reason for death in young athletes. It can occur during physical exercise, while taking a rest, or even while sleeping. Young people can also die due to sudden cardiac arrest or later on due to brain damage that occurred during the SCA.
The reasons for sudden cardiac death in young people differ, though most of the time, death is because of a heart abnormality. For several reasons, something triggers the heartbeat to be out of control. This irregular pace is called ventricular fibrillation.
Some reasons for sudden cardiac death in young people are:
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
It is primarily an inherited condition wherein the heart muscle walls thicken, interrupting the heart’s electrical system, resulting in irregular heartbeats, also known as arrhythmias. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, though usually not fatal, is the most widespread reason for heart-related sudden death in people below the age of 30, as well as for athletes.
Coronary Artery Abnormalities
Some people have coronary arteries that are connected abnormally since birth. The arteries may become compressed while exercising and not offer sufficient blood flow to the heart.
Long QT Syndrome
It is an inherited heartbeat disorder that can result in fast, disordered heartbeats. Youngsters with QT syndrome for a long time have a greater risk of sudden death. Other causes of sudden cardiac death in young people include structural abnormalities like neglected heart disease since birth (congenital) and heart muscle abnormalities.
Inflammation of the heart muscle due to viruses and illnesses and abnormalities of the heart’s electrical system like Brugada syndrome could also result in sudden death.
Commotio Cordis is a rare cause of sudden cardiac death that can impact any individual due to a direct blow to the chest, triggering ventricular fibrillation. Parents and community members must look out for symptoms that indicate that a young person is at greater risk of sudden cardiac death.
A family history of sudden deaths before the age of 50 could also be an indicator and it would be appropriate to speak to your doctor for various screening options. Breathlessness or chest pain could reflect that you are at risk of sudden cardiac death.
Seek doctor’s advice before participating in competitive sports. Based on the underlying condition, medical treatments may be appropriate to decrease the risk of sudden death.
For individuals with a family history that results in sudden cardiac death, screening would be appropriate. Though sudden cardiac death in young people is not very common, even the loss of a single life impacts the community. Hence, measures to reduce the risks must be initiated.