Triggers for sudden cardiac death differ by gender

HONOLULU, April 24 Psychosocial stress is a more common trigger for sudden cardiac arrest than physical exertion for women, while the opposite is true for men, according to a study presented today at the American Heart Associations Asia Pacific Scientific Forum.

The factors that cause sudden cardiac arrest are hard to pin down, but our study shows that men and women may have different triggers, says Norman Ratliff, M.D., cardiology fellow at the University of Minnesota/Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation in Minneapolis.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the hearts electrical impulses become rapid or chaotic, causing the heart to stop beating. Death is imminent unless a person is treated within minutes with an electrical shock from a device called a defibrillator.

Researchers studied 122 men and women who had suffered an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and had been given an implantable defibrillator to correct future episodes of chaotic heartbeats.

The participants filled out a questionnaire that included detailed information about activities prior to their sudden cardiac arrests. They were also asked about psychological factors defined as psychosocial stressors, or emotional triggers, such as whether they had experienced a divorce, death of a loved one, family conflicts or other significant life events.

Women were more likely to report that they had experienced one or more psychological stressors, rather than physical exertion prior to cardiac arrest. Of the 20 women in the study, 40 percent said they experienced psychological stressors and only 5 percent reported physical exertion. Forty percent of the men reported physical stress and 16 percent reported emotional stress before their cardiac arrest.

Many of the people in the study 45 percent of the women and 38 percent of the men had not been on any medication prior to the cardiac arrest. Only 50 percent of the women and 33 percent of men had no prior history of cardiac di

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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