Sudden cardiac death happens when the heart suddenly stops working, either as a result of a sudden heart attack or, more commonly, a disruption of normal heart rhythm. This sudden end of activity is also called cardiac arrest. Quite often it happens in people who did not have any previous history of heart disease and were seemingly healthy, but can also happen in people known to have heart disease. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), over 300,000 cardiac arrests happen yearly in the United States or about half of all cardiac deaths.
A study presented at a recent annual meeting of the American Heart Association was conducted to estimate the lifetime risk of having this problem, in other words what are the chances for a person to have cardiac arrest based on his or her age and sex.
The authors looked at 3 major heart studies that involved about 5,000 adults and examined the data on sudden cardiac death.
They found that at any given age African-American men had about double the risk of white men. This was not true about black women – they had the same risk as white women.
The overall lifetime risk for men aged 40 and older was one in eight, or 12.3 percent. The lifetime risk for women was one in 24, or a little over 4 percent. This means that men had three times higher risk than women and black men have 6 times higher risk.
Having traditional risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and smoking cigarettes, also increased the risk.
One of the risk factors for sudden death is vigorous exercise. Everybody has heard of someone who died while jogging, playing football or shoveling snow. When it comes to strenuous physical activity, men continue to have higher risk than women by a factor of about 7-10.
Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, you can reduce your risk by keeping your heart healthy. I describe the whole protocol in the book mentioned below, but in a nutshell it means eating wholesome natural food, avoiding junk processed food, not smoking, moderate (not intense) physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption, and taking certain nutritional supplements that support heart health.