A myth that sudden cardiac arrests often take place during rigorous physical activity like while playing sports was dispelled by a new study.
While presenting a study at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress about sudden cardiac death in Ontario, Dr. Andrew Krahn of the University of British Columbia suggested that sudden cardiac death is a problem that warrants attention, but he insisted that we should not blame the sports for it.
Reviewing coroners' reports, Dr. Krahn and a team of researchers found there were 174 cases of presumed sudden death in Ontario in 2008 in people aged two to 40 years.
Heart disease was present in 126 cases (72 per cent), 78 per cent of which was unrecognized. The majority of victims were male (76 per cent) between the ages of 18 and 40 (90 per cent).
With sudden cardiac death, people who seem to be perfectly healthy can die suddenly. Each year up to 40,000 Canadians die of sudden cardiac arrest. A significant proportion of these cases occur in otherwise healthy, young individuals.
Contrary to the assumption that sudden cardiac death often takes place during rigorous physical activity, Dr. Krahn's research found the majority of events (72 per cent) occurred at home.
Only 33 per cent of events involving children/adolescents and just nine per cent of events in adults occurred during moderate or vigorous exercise.
"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. But if the same kid is a high school quarterback or hockey star, then it's covered," said Dr. Krahn.
Regardless of the location of the cardiac event, Dr. Krahn believes his research sheds some light on this issue.
He suggests more attention be paid to possible warning signs such as fainting. He believes that teachers, coaches and an aware public may be key to detecting risk, ensuring prevention and formal medical evaluation and therapy.