CAN ANYTHING BE DONE TO PREVENT SCD?
Living a heart-healthy life can help reduce the chances of dying from sudden cardiac arrest or other heart conditions. This includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a reasonable weight and avoiding smoking. It also is important to monitor and treat diseases and conditions that can contribute to heart problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. For some people, preventing sudden cardiac death means controlling the abnormal heart rhythms that may trigger ventricular fibrillation.
Treatment can include medication, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator or other medical interventions. Consult with your doctor to determine the treatment plan that is best for you.
ARE ATHLETES AT RISK FOR SCD?
Generally, athletes are in peak physical form. Yet, even well conditioned athletes may be at risk for SCD. The earliest documented case of sudden cardiac death occurred in 490 B.C., when Pheidippides, a Greek soldier and conditioned runner, ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the military victory over Persia, only to deliver his message then collapse and die. More recently, SCD has claimed the lives of some high-profile athletes. In 1993, professional basketball player Reggie Lewis collapsed and died during an off-season practice. He was only 27. Olympic gold-medal ice skater Sergei Grinkov died from SCD at the age of 28. Steve Gootter, a fit and healthy, accomplished amateur athlete, was stricken by sudden cardiac death at the age of 42, with no previous warning signs of any health problem.
Sudden cardiac death in professional athletes is still relatively rare. Yet, health experts worry that “weekend warriors” may unknowingly be at risk. Researchers estimate that sudden cardiac death strikes one out of every 15,000 to 18,000 joggers or vigorous exercisers age 35 and older. Most of these people are unaware that they are at risk for the condition. Doctors urge health screenings for all marathon runners and those who regularly participate in vigorous exercise. Younger runners may have congenital heart problems that put them at risk for sudden cardiac death. Runners over 35 may have early signs of coronary artery disease. Often, they are unaware of their risk because they have no symptoms. Before launching any exercise or training program, always consult your doctor and get an evaluation of your risk for SCD and other heart disease.