Sudden death due to different cardiac conditions is common these days. About hundreds of thousands of Americans die of sudden death due to various heart problems each year – an incidence that can run in families. So, if you have any sudden death history in your family, you should better care and have a complete medical checkup.

Sudden Death History

Sudden cardiac death occurs due to cardiovascular causes when someone dies suddenly, generally within an hour of the appearance of symptoms. The autopsy of such cases reveals a problem with the heart that stayed undiagnosed during the life of the deceased one. But occasionally, medical inspectors find no logical, physical explanation for a person’s death, which leads them to run genetic tests to check for possible mutations.

Most common causes of Sudden Death History

  • Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in Western societies.
  • Other cardiomyopathies and genetic channelopathies account for the remaining 20% of causes.
  • Parental history of sudden death is a strong clinical predictor of the occurrence of sudden death.
  • In patients from birth to 13 years, the main cause of sudden cardiac death is often a congenital abnormality.
  • In patients aged 14 – 24, sudden cardiac death can be attributed to congenital coronary anomalies, Marfan syndrome, genetic channelopathies, myocarditis, or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
  • Fatal arrhythmia is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in patients younger than thirty-five.
  • In most cases, ventricular tachyarrhythmias can cause sudden death by causing disordered ventricular contraction.
  • Patients with a history of heart failure, reduced ventricular function, frequent ventricular ectopy, and abnormal autonomic function tests such as heart rate variability are at increased risk of sudden death.
  • For non-ischemic sudden cardiac death, the most common causes are cardiomyopathies due to alcoholism, obesity, or fibrosis.

Despite making a lot of efforts to prevent sudden cardiac death among the general population, thousands of coronary heart disease patients die before preventive measures can be introduced. People with high-risk factors for coronary events like Acute Myocardial Infarction are more vulnerable to sudden cardiac death.

Genetics and sudden death history

Recent studies have shown that a family or parental history of sudden death increases the prevalence of one’s risk of dying suddenly. So, suppose medical inspectors find any gene mutation in a deceased person after running an autopsy. In that case, they suggest the immediate relatives of the deceased one get a cardiac workup. They also suggest the immediate relatives, including the children, parents, and siblings, undergo testing to see if they have the same genetic mutation.

Treatment plans for family history of sudden death

If your family (close relatives) has a history of sudden death, you should make an appointment with your family doctor for a complete medical checkup. If you’re suspected of cardiac arrhythmias, your doctor may prescribe some medications, such as beta-blockers, to manage cardiac arrhythmias. Or he can suggest implanting an internal defibrillator to maintain your heart’s normal rhythm.

If the reports show that you might carry the mutation genes, you should opt for treatment options, mainly lifestyle modifications and regular checkups.