Nov. 17, 2009 (Orlando, Fla.) — Men age 40 and over have a one in eight chance of suffering sudden cardiac death, and the risk is even higher for African-American men, a study shows.
For women 40 and over, the odds of suffering sudden cardiac death are one in 24, according to the study, the first to estimate lifetime risks of the condition.
“The lifetime risk for sudden cardiac death is greater than the lifetime risk for lung cancer, which is one in 12 for men, and one in 16 for colon cancer,” says researcher Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, a cardiologist at Northwestern University in Chicago. In women, the lifetime risk of both lung and colon cancer is about one in 17, he says.
Nearly 300,000 Americans a year suffer sudden cardiac arrest, in which a person dies within minutes after an abrupt loss of heart function; victims typically have not been diagnosed with heart disease.
Michael Ackerman, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says that in about half of cases, warning signs — including frequent episodes of dizziness or fainting, or an unexplained drowning or car accident involving a family member — can increase risk. “We can reduce sudden cardiac death right now just by being more aware of the warning signs.”