Sudden Death in a healthy person

Dr T Ask Doctor T, Cardiac Risks, Your Heart Rhythm 1 Comment

Question:

Dear Doctor T,

A friend died of a heart attack this past Sat. while on a mountain bike ride.  He was 46, not overweight, lived a clean lifestyle.  It came as a shock to me.  Was he most likely born with a heart defect or had family history of heart disease?  Cause I’m wondering how this could happen to someone that young.  I like to mountain bike too but in wake of this incident, I feel a touch more apprehensive about that.  Sincerely,Heather

Answer:

Hi Heather,
Much more likely than a heart attack, your friend died because of an arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation (VF), causing sudden cardiac death (SCD).
SCD can occur in active, outwardly healthy people with no known heart disease or other health problems. While its causes include coronary artery disease (CAD), arrhythmias can occur for other reasons, such as:

  • Electrolyte imbalances in your blood (such as sodium or potassium).
  • Changes in your heart muscle.
  • Injury from a heart attack.
  • Healing process after heart surgery.
  • Irregular heart rhythms can also occur in “normal, healthy” hearts.

In somebody with a heart healthy life style w/o cardiac risk factors, CAD is unlikely but can be excluded with a variety of tests.
You can test your personal risk for heart disease, and if still concerned about arrhythmias, discuss specific testing with your doctor.
Hope this helps,
Dr T

Comments 1

  1. I have had set before. I was belated 3 times and doing well. They are few and far between now. About 6 yrs ago a VT was detected on a standard rhythm test.(forgot name of test). I should add I’m dealing with a broken VA system. Weeks later I had the test done again. VT not detected. I was denied a consultation with a cardiologist. I’ve been told in passing I have paid over 15 years. Presently an orthopedists found clotting behind my right knee. Outside VA. Ordered an echo and a CT w/contrast waiting results. For several yrs I have had stomach and center low chest pain and bloating. 4 serious bacterial infections in 2 yrs. Blood in urine. Yesterday, stood up, walking casually across room. About 6 steps dizzy, 5 more grabbed door handle L hand rested right forearm on tower fan. Trying to steady self, distant sound of crashing. When I woke up on floor thought I heard running to me from the other room. Turned out it was the pounding in my own head. Mother described me as white with really glassy eyes. Took over 3 hrs to regain some senses back. I’ve been dizzy before. I have never passed out. I bumped or hit my knee somehow. I have pain, numbness and a lot of swelling with heat sensations knee, back of knee, back of thigh and calf. Plus 5 small Strokes around 15 yrs ago. I’m scared. VA has dropped me through the cracks. Please, can you tell me anything or even direction. I have acquired Medicare etc. I’m 58. Family history severe heart decease/cancer. Quit smoking 4 yrs ago. No drink or drugs. I am a daughter of 82 yrs old mom. I’m a mother and grandmother of 3 who need me. 100% Disabled vet. Pls help me…

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