Men Face Higher Odds of Sudden Cardiac Death
Study Shows Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death Is Greater for Men Than Women
Nov. 17, 2009 (Orlando, Fla.) -- Men age 40 and over have a one in eight
chance of suffering sudden cardiac death, and the risk is even higher for
African-American men, a study shows.
For women 40 and over, the odds of suffering sudden cardiac death are one in
24, according to the study, the first to estimate lifetime risks of the
"The lifetime risk for sudden cardiac death is greater than the lifetime
risk for lung cancer, which is one in 12 for men, and one in 16 for colon
cancer," says researcher Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, a cardiologist at Northwestern
University in Chicago. In women, the lifetime risk of both lung and colon
cancer is about one in 17, he says.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart
Nearly 300,000 Americans a year suffer sudden cardiac arrest, in which a
person dies within minutes after an abrupt loss of heart function; victims
typically have not been diagnosed with heart disease.
"It particularly devastating because it strikes without warning and can
affect the young as well as old," Lloyd-Jones tells WebMD. "Public health and
individual efforts should be aimed at preventing this devastating consequence
of cardiovascular disease."
For the new analysis, the researchers pooled data on nearly 5,000 adults
involved in three major heart studies.
Among the findings:
- African-American men had about twice the risk of sudden cardiac death as
white men at any given age.
- Risks were similar for African-American and white women in all age
- Among the 300,000 annual cases, 3,000 to 5,000 occur among children,
adolescents, and young adults. In contrast to older people, such cases are
- The older the person, the lower the risk for sudden cardiac death.
- People with risk factors for heart disease -- such as high blood pressure,
high cholesterol, and smoking cigarettes - are at significantly increased risk
of sudden cardiac death.
"These are fairly astonishing data," says Muriel Jessup, MD, a cardiologist
at University of Pennsylvania who headed the committee that chose the studies
to highlight at the meeting.
The good news is that the same strategies for reducing the risk of heart
disease should also reduce the risk of sudden death, she says.
Michael Ackerman, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says that in
about half of cases, warning signs -- including frequent episodes of dizziness
or fainting, or an unexplained drowning or car accident involving a family
member -- can increase risk. "We can reduce sudden cardiac death right now just
by being more aware of the warning signs."