Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is the term used to describe when someone dies of a cardiac cause suddenly and unexpectedly. The actual medical definition varies from author to author, but it is generally considered death that occurs after one hour of the beginning of symptoms. Also, death must happen without “immediate anticipation” of it, meaning that the person could have cardiovascular disease present at the time of death, but it was not expected it would end his or her life any time soon. Symptoms run the gamut of cardiac presentations and include chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath and fainting. Cardiac conditions that could cause sudden cardiac death include ventricular arrhythmia and myocardial infarction. There are approximately 350,000 cases of sudden cardiac death in the United States each year, which comes down to a rate of 0.2 percent per person per year. Males are affected more often than women, at a rate of 3 to 1.
Risk factors for sudden cardiac death include:
Left ventricular hypertrophy
Intraventricular conduction block
Decreased vital capacity
baseline heart rate
Of these smoking causes the most dramatic increase in risk.
Compared to non-smokers, smokers have 2.5 times the chance of sudden cardiac death.
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