April 06, 2015
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Sudden cardiac arrest very low in middle-aged adults during physical activity

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Among about 1,200 cases of sudden cardiac arrest involving middle-aged men and women, only 5% were associated with sports activities such as jogging, cycling and basketball, according to findings published in Circulation.

Researchers conducted a study to determine the burden, characteristics and outcomes of sudden cardiac arrest in middle-aged residents of the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area. According to previous research, most sports-related sudden cardiac arrests occur in middle-aged people.

The researchers reported findings from the prospective Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study of men and women aged 35 to 65 years who experienced sudden cardiac arrest in the Portland area from February 2002 to January 2013.

Overall, there were 1,247 cases of sudden cardiac arrest in that population during that time, only 5% of which occurred during sports activities (mean age, 51.1 years). This yielded an incidence rate of 21.7 per 1 million per year (95% CI, 8.1-35.4).

Among men, the incidence was higher for sports sudden cardiac arrest (RR vs. women = 18.68; 95% CI, 2.5-139.56) than for all other sudden cardiac arrests (RR vs. women = 2.58; 95% CI, 2.12-3.13), the researchers found.

Compared with other sudden cardiac arrests, sports sudden cardiac arrest was more likely to be witnessed (87% vs. 53%; P < .001), more likely to require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (44% vs. 25%; P = .001) and more likely to be associated with ventricular fibrillation (84% vs. 51%; P < .001).

Among those who had sports sudden cardiac arrest, 16% had known cardiac disease, 56% had at least one CV risk factor and 36% had typical CV symptoms during the week before the incident. The most frequent activities at the time of sports sudden cardiac arrest were jogging (27%), basketball (17%) and cycling (14%); 58% occurred in a facility such as a gym or stadium.

Sumeet Chugh, MD

Sumeet Chugh

Extrapolating the results to the population of the U.S., the researchers estimated that the annual incidence of sports sudden cardiac arrest would be 2,269 for middle-aged men and 136 for middle-aged women.

“Our study findings reinforce the idea of the high-benefit, low-risk nature of exercise in middle age and emphasize the importance of education to maximize safety, particularly as the population ages and more baby boomers increasingly take part in sports activities to prolong their lives,” Sumeet Chugh, MD, associate director for genomic cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, said in a press release. “For any kind of preventive intervention, education is very important and can be more efficient when provided in a targeted manner.” – by Erik Swain

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.