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Heart Disease In The News

Sudden death becoming more common in the young
March 5, 2001

The incidence of sudden death from cardiac arrest in young people (people under the age of 35) increased alarmingly during the 1990s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The incidence of cardiac arrest in young men increased by 10%, and in young women by 32% in the last decade.

Cardiac arrest generally occurs in the setting of underlying heart disease, such as coronary artery disease or heart failure, conditions that are uncommon in the young.  Consequently, cardiac arrests have been regarded as being rare in young people. 

Possible reasons that cardiac arrests may be occurring more frequently in young people include smoking or illicit drug use (cocaine, in particular, can precipitate sudded death), but the rising incidence of obesity in young people may be a clue.  Perhaps other risk factors for premature coronary artery disease may be increasing in the young.

The findings of the CDCP are likely to trigger follow-up studies to more clearly identify the cause for the rising incidence of cardiac arrest and sudden death in the young. 

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