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Symptoms may precede sudden cardiac arrest by up to a month

Wednesday November 20, 2013
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Sudden cardiac arrest is not always so sudden, according to research presented Nov. 19 at a conference of the American Heart Association.

In a study of middle-age men in Portland, Oregon, more than half had possible warning signs up to a month before their hearts stopped abruptly.

About 360,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests are reported each year in the United States, according to the heart association. Only 9.5% of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive. “By the time rescuers get there, it’s much too late,” Eloi Marijon, MD, the study’s lead author and a visiting scientist at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, said in a news release.

The new research is part of the 11-year-old Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study, which involves 1 million people in the Portland metro area. Researchers gathered information about the symptoms and health history of men ages 35 to 65 who had out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in 2002-12.

Among 567 men who had out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, 53% had symptoms prior to the cardiac arrest. Of those with symptoms, 56% had chest pain, 13% had shortness of breath and 4% had dizziness, fainting or palpitations.

Almost 80% of the symptoms occurred between four weeks and one hour before the sudden cardiac arrest, Marijon said. Most men had coronary artery disease, but only about half had been tested for it before their cardiac arrest.

Researchers are conducting similar work in women.

“The lesson is, if you have these kinds of symptoms, please don’t blow them off,” Sumeet Chugh, MD, senior author and associate director of genomic cardiology at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, said in the news release.“Go see your healthcare provider. Don’t waste time.”

American Heart Association 2013 Scientific Sessions: http://my.americanheart.org/professional/Sessions/ScientificSessions/Scientific-Sessions_UCM_316900_SubHomePage.jsp


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