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A Study of Sudden Cardiac Death in Women

separator Sudden cardiac death (SCD), defined as death that occurs within 1 hour after symptoms appear, is more common in men and has been studied in men more frequently. A recent study of SCD in women has shown that, although most women who experience SCD had no history of heart attack, 94 percent of them had at least one risk factor for heart disease.

Researchers looked at data from the Nurses Health Study. They followed 121,701 women for 22 years, ending in 1998. During that time period, there were 244 cases of SCD. Some of the findings:

  • Women who smoked 25 or more cigarettes per day had a four-fold increased risk of CSD
  • Women with diabetes had a three-fold increased risk of CSD
  • High blood pressure caused a 2.5 fold increased risk
  • Obesity brought with it a 1.6 fold increased risk

Women who had parents who died of SCD before age 60 were also at increased risk.

Additionally, the study showed that the main cause of SCD in women appears to be “chaotic heart rhythm.” This is the same cause of most SCD cases among men.

Circulation, Rapid Access Issue, 15 April 2003.
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