At the Red Cross, we know that cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States – and through our health and safety training, continue to improve and update these standards as research allows. Just this morning, breaking news came out on an Oregon Health and Science University-led study on sudden unexpected death. Titled The Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study, it represents one of the most comprehensive looks at the condition ever conducted.
“We want to identify people before they experience sudden cardiac arrest, not after,” says Dr. Jonathan Jui, an emergency medicine physician at OHSU and one of the leaders of the study. The research has made Portland residents some of the most closely watched populations in the world. Scientists at the “heart” of this study have discovered some incredible results, among them:
– That women are half as likely as men to show decreased heart pumping ability – which means women are also less likely to receive protective implantable defibrillators than their male counterparts.
– As a contrast to long-held assumptions about how physical activity can trigger cardiac arrest, an analysis of 300 cases last year found that people were sleeping or engaged in light activities at the time of their cardiac arrest. In fact, vigorous exercise was a potential factor in only 5 percent of cases!
– Residents in lower-income areas have a much higher risk of sudden cardiac arrest than those in more affluent neighborhoods, according to the study’s results from 2006. Researchers state that decisions on anti-smoking campaigns and automatic defibrillator placement should reflect these results.
Additionally, this study aims to improve estimates of individual risk by combining information about heart rhythm, pumping ability, genetics and other factors.
“We have more than 2,500 cases, and DNA on at least half of them,” Dr. Sumeet Chugh, study organizer, says. He considers the problem of sudden cardiac death his life’s work. “We have this opportunity to prevent so many deaths,” he says.