Heart Check-Ups For Next-Of-Kin

Sudden cardiac death in young people may be linked to cardiac issues in close relatives

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Prevention is always best, but finding out what needs preventing is the first step. Family members of patients that suffered sudden cardiac death may have higher risk for heart trouble themselves.

A recent study looked at cardiovascular trouble in relatives of people who had died from sudden cardiac death before the age of 35.

The study’s findings showed a 75 percent increased risk in first degree relatives.

"Talk to a doctor about cardio screening."

Mattis Flyvholm Ranthe, MD, and PhD candidate research fellow at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark, led the investigation into hereditary cardiovascular risks.

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is when someone dies from heart problems out of the blue with normal physical function for 24 hours before death and heart problems only within an hour of death.

For the study, researchers followed the first and second degree relatives of 470 people between 1-35 years of age that died from SCD in Denmark between 2000-2006.

Upon autopsy, researchers discovered 57 percent of the deaths were from heart-related issues.

A total of 3,073 relatives provided data for 11 years on their cardiovascular health.

Results of the study found relatives under the age of 35 were at higher risk than the general population for cardiovascular problems:

  • Three times more likely for second degree, and four times more likely for first degree, to have cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  • Six times more likely to have ischemic heart disease, which is less blood flow to the heart
  • Ten times more likely for second degree, and 18 times more likely for first degree, to have cardiomyopathies – weak or damaged heart muscle
  • Ten times more likely for second degree, and 19 times more likely for first degree, to have ventricular arrhythmias – abnormal heartbeat

Dr. Ranthe said, “If SCD has genetic causes then this would suggest that relatives of young SCD victims are at greater risk of heart disease than the general population and would benefit from screening to identify those at risk so that they could be given appropriate preventive treatment. This could save a significant number of lives.”

With a greater risk for CVD in first degree relatives under the age of 35, screening and preventive treatment should be a priority for relatives of people hit by SCD.

This study was published in November in the European Heart Journal. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 14, 2012
Last Updated:
May 3, 2013