Wearable ECGs could reduce sudden cardiac arrest

Elation quickly turned to grief in September 2010 when Oregon high school football star Hayward Demison scored a touchdown, then immediately fell to the ground, dead from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).1

When a young person dies during a sporting event, we can’t believe it. Or when we hear of marathon runners dropping dead from heart attacks, we’re stunned. Maybe it’s because most of these people are young. Perhaps we equate physical fitness with health. And that’s where we’re wrong.

Physically fit doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. People who die from SCA either ignore the signs or never saw them to begin with. In young athletes, it’s typically undiagnosed arrhythmias that cause deadly heart attacks.

Not long ago, there was little anyone could do to prevent a student-athlete dying on the field from SCA. Even with requirements for students to have annual physicals to participate in sports, there are still about 70 athlete deaths in the U.S., and over 300,000 total deaths each year, because of SCA.2

Sudden cardiac arrest is different than a heart attack

SCA differs from a heart attack. SCA is due to electrical problems causing dangerously fast heart rates whereas a heart attack happens because of blocked arteries.

Not only young athletes are at risk. Former heart attack victims are among the individuals most likely to die from SCA. According to an online article published in MediaPlanet: “While there are many causes of sudden cardiac arrest, including underlying heart rhythm disorders, one of the most common risk factors is a recent heart attack. The dead muscle from a heart attack can disrupt the heart’s natural electrical system and lead to SCA.”3 According to the same article, “more than 1.5 million Americans will have a heart attack this year” and many of those people are unaware of the further SCA risk, or other cardiac related problems, that the heart attacks puts them in.3

Cardiac testing can save lives

An online article published by Boston Scientific suggests that electrocardiogram (ECG) testing “has the potential to identify HCM and save athletes from sudden cardiac death.”4 A groundbreaking Italian study published by JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association), cites ECGs and echocardiograms as two simple tests that can save lives, with the ECG having “the potential to detect heart conditions that account for up to 60% of sudden deaths in young competitive athletes.”5 From 1979 to 2004, a group of researchers in Italy studied 55 athletes to determine if cardiac testing could reduce the incidences of SCA. 5 So, while sudden cardiac arrest is scary, death from SCA can be prevented. In fact, this 25-year study determined that: Cardiac testing reduced deaths by an astounding 89 percent.

Mobile cardiac monitoring is the solution of the future

Overall, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the leading killer on the planet, “accounting for more than 17.3 million deaths per year, a number that is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030,” according the American Heart Association.6 While, mobile heart monitoring used to be cumbersome and was only prescribed to a patient presenting symptoms of CVD—which left out at-risk young athletes—modern medicine has advanced such that mobile monitoring can be practical and comfortable for all patient types.

A clinical-grade mobile monitoring device, like our own Bioflux, is a diagnostic tool that acts like an ECG. Bioflux measures and monitors the patient’s heart while he is on the go and transmits the medical data in real time, 24/7, to the patient’s (or athlete’s) physician. The physician analyzes the information and advises the patient on what to do next. If an athlete’s heart indicates an arrhythmia, the medical device detects it and the physician is immediately alerted.

The good news for young athletes as well as seniors and anyone in between is that wearable medical monitoring devices can detect arrhythmias and send real-time alerts to both patients and their doctors, which could catch sudden cardiac arrest before it happens. This modern miracle is a preventative tool that has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

Fast Facts: Young Athletes & SCA

·         In the United States, a young competitive athlete dies suddenly every three days.1

·         SCA occurs in one to two in 200,000 athletes annually

·         2/3 of sudden deaths in U.S. athletes take place during football or basketball games or practices

·         Young athletes are more than twice as likely to experience SCD than young non-athletes.3

·         Most victims are male (90%).4,5

·         Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the leading cardiovascular cause of SCD (36%) in young athletes.2 (HCM is a disease that causes thickening of the heart muscle.)

·         More than half of HCM sudden death victims are black athletes (52%).2,4

·         The average age when SCD occurs in young athletes is 17.5 years.4

·         The risk of SCD increases with age.1

·         More than two-thirds of young athletes who die suddenly are basketball and football players (67%).2

 

Risk & Prevention  

Young athletes with the following risk factors have a greater risk of SCA:

·         Family history of unexpected, unexplained sudden death in a young person

·         Fainting (syncope) or seizure during exercise, excitement, or when startled

·         Consistent or unusual chest pain and/or shortness of breath during exercise.

Information found on Boston Scientific’s website, http://www.your-heart-health.com/en-US/heart-disease-facts/young-athletes.html
1. Drezner, Jonathan, et al. Inter-Association Task Force Recommendations on Emergency Preparedness and Management of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in High School and College Athletic Programs: A Consensus Statement. Heart Rhythm Society. 2007;4:549-565.
2. Maron, Barry J., et al. Relationship of Race to Sudden Cardiac Death in Competitive Athletes with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2003;41:974-980.
3. Domenico Corrado, et. al. Trends in Sudden Cardiovascular Death in Young Competitive Athletes After Implementation of a Preparticipation Screening Program. Journal of American Medical Association. 2006;296:1593-1601.
4. Maron, Barry J., et al. Profile and Frequency of Sudden Deaths in 1,463 Young Competitive Athletes: From a 26-year U.S. National Registry, 1980-2005. Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. [poster];2006.
5. Maron, Barry J., et al. Recommendations and Considerations Related to Preparticipation Screening for Cardiovascular Abnormalities in Competitive Athletes: 2007 Update. American Heart Association Journal. 2007;115:1643-1655.

Resources:

[1] http://www.today.com/health/teen-athletes-sudden-deaths-spur-call-heart-screening-2D80555866

[2] http://www.sca-aware.org/about-sca

[3]  http://www.futureofpersonalhealth.com/prevention-and-treatment/sudden-cardiac-arrest-its-not-a-heart-attack

[4] http://www.your-heart-health.com/en-US/heart-disease-facts/young-athletes/how-coaches-can-help.html

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17018804

[6] http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/ahamah-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_480086.pdf