Unrecognised heart disease and not rigorous physical activity like sports is to be blamed for sudden cardiac arrests in young and healthy individuals, a new study has claimed.

Dr Andrew Krahn of the University of British Columbia presenting a study at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress said that sudden cardiac death is a problem that warrants attention, but claimed sports are not to be blamed.

Reviewing coroners’ reports, Dr. Krahn and a team of researchers found there were 174 cases of presumed sudden death in Ontario in 2008 in people aged two to 40 years.

Heart disease was present in 126 cases (72 per cent), 78 per cent of which was unrecognised. The majority of victims were male (76 per cent) between the ages of 18 and 40 (90 per cent).

With sudden cardiac death, people who seem to be perfectly healthy can die suddenly. A significant proportion of such cases occur in otherwise healthy, young individuals.

Dr. Krahn’s research dispels the myth that sudden cardiac death often takes place during rigorous physical activity. In fact, he found the majority of events (72 per cent) occurred at home.

Only 33 per cent of events involving children/adolescents and just nine per cent of events in adults occurred during moderate or vigorous exercise.

“Put it this way: If you have a 13-year-old kid who is not the star athlete who dies at home watching TV, it doesn’t make the news. But if the same kid is a high school quarterback or hockey star, then it’s covered,” Dr. Krahn said.

“This research gives us an idea of the scope of the problem — there are almost 200 young people who die suddenly every year in Ontario. A good proportion of them have unrecognised heart disease. So the question is: How can we catch this before it happens?” he said in a statement.

“I would advocate for careful screening of people who faint, using questionnaires and education of healthcare professionals so that when warning signs present themselves, they recognise them and this information gets passed on to the right people,” he added.

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